Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"this is the last remaining picture of my family..."

During a quick perusal of some blogs this morning, I ran across one who posted a picture of a man kissing a snowman. Normally nothing that would catch your eye, but the colors seemed faded from time, so I surmised this was a scan of an older picture. This was posted with it:
"...all my family photos, baby pictures, photos of my grandma as i was taking care of her before she passed, the only photos of my grandfather, and every single old photo of my parents when they were young and still married were in a box that was supposed to be shipped to me but instead was picked up by the salvation army..."
She goes on to say that the Salvation Army found nothing "of use" in the box, so they incinerated it. No attempt to contact her (in spite of contact info on the box). Simply tossed it into the incinerator.
"...in one single moment, the entire history of my life was incinerated and i feel like someone died."
I can't begin to put into words what I feel about something like that ever happening to me. I don't consider myself a photographer, but I've been ridiculed over the years for always taking pictures. Sort of filtered down from my mother. And from being the first-born in the family (notice how your baby sister hardly has any pictures in her baby book compared to the oldest child?). But to lose the photographic documentation of family or personal histories is devastating. It's one thing to lose pictures and family albums due to disaster, but entirely another matter when it's due to another's ignorance/stupidity.

Shortly after my grandfather's sudden death 14 years ago, my grandmother and I prepared to move her into town, which meant going through decades of accumulated memories, as there simply was no way to move it all into her new apartment. Fortunately, most of it was distributed among the family, but she didn't want to keep the photo albums. "I don't even remember who half these people are," she said. And frankly, if SHE didn't know, then we certainly didn't. Classmates, friends, experiences--people, places and events that only SHE could identify. So we tossed pages and pages of pictures. All black & white, somewhat blurry, and each a snapshot of a simpler time. I felt very odd about doing it, and I asked her numerous times if this is what she really wanted to do. And she said yes.

It was probably the grief of losing her soulmate of 60+ years, and not being in the best frame of mind. I should have just taken them all and given them to my mother to hang on to. Within four weeks, my grandmother was frantic because she couldn't find a particular album. When I told her that we went through them all and tossed all but the most recent, she broke down and cried. I felt absolutely sick. And would never want to put anyone else in that position. The worst part? There's absolutely no way to rectify the situation.

How safe are your family's photos???

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