The only one.

This is the only picture I have of my daughter from near the time that Gavin died. I think I took this the next day, or two days after we all left the hospice facility, broken, relieved, disoriented. June 2006. Of course I know the anniversary, but not exactly when the picture was taken because, of course, the digital camera calendar was a few weeks ahead, or behind, or somehow mixed up the entire time.

I looked for this picture for a long time. There are a few others from that year but none that were memorable, and this one, only because I’ll always associate the moment this shutter clicked with my desire to preserve one still moment in the blur of everything the days and weeks before and after he died. I was happy to forget the few months leading up, when a few pictures had been taken of him weak, lying on the futon in the living room, and a few bland shots of Christmas we sleepwalked through.

There are pictures of the trip she and I took right after the memorial service, and some from her first days in day care, later that summer. Most of that time was lived in a fog, some of it with others around, most of it alone, overheated, praying someone would take a nap, wishing I were paralyzed. These pictures tell some fuzzy story about loss and then short tales of change, trying to escape, new experiences. This one, I remembered, was the only one to simply record a moment of life, an actual mood or memory.

And I wanted, increasingly as I got stronger, to remember what I’d felt like, how we’d lived then. It was easy enough to share some narrative: one about the loss (horrible, inevitable, sad in the proscribed way), the second about how we were learning new things (positive, brave, led by a secure child). The stories were sociable and appropriate. I wouldn’t learn anything from seeing the pictures of those days.

Any picture of her at age two and a half would help validate me as a survivor. I craved that proof. I mean, she’s wonderful, but we were alone in hell: grieving, the diapers, no naps, the heat of summer, the fights to get into the carseat… did it really happen without any visual record? I needed it but didn’t have the energy, I suppose, to find it.

I browsed, almost aimlessly, wondering if I’d imagined taking this single candid, looking in vain.

About a year later I was doing much more sophisticated things with iPhoto and paying more attention – and in a generally more awake state. I spent days cataloging, editing, and titling the scans I had made from Gavin’s lifetime portfolio of more than 1,000 drawings and paintings – actually using the application as it’s intended, at last, I opened a tab in the menu. The year “2006” was unchecked – toggled “off.”

I checked the box. A minute later all of 2006 – only 20 or 30 pictures – came back. Had I turned it off on purpose?

And here she is – the only picture of my only child, my little girl, coming in from the sun one summer day. You can see meaning in it, or a slice of one day. With gratitude at finding it, I choose the latter.

* * * Please connect! I love comments! * * *


annie said...

There are next to no pictures of my late husband during his illness. I didn't want to document his decline. There are pictures of our daughter - quite a few - but I was not a shutterbug ever in my life and motherhood didn't change that much.

There are pictures of her fourth birthday in the summer of 2006. Her first b-day after he died. Heartbreaking b/c I know the sadness in her face and eyes stem from the fact that she believed her dad would be allowed to come back for her party. She didn't tell me this until the party. So there we were in the middle of Chuck E Cheese and her miserable and me blind-sided b/c I had no idea she's been so excited earlier due to the fact that she thought her father would show up.

I have tons of pictures of her now. Her dad (my second husband) is good at the visual documenting thing and she is a different child. Sunny, secure and obviously very happy. Interesting what time manages.

Anonymous said...

I just lost my husband last month to lung cancer, he was 38 and my children are 7 and 4. My little girl will be hosting a skating party for her fifth birthday this Saturday. Your posting is timely because I really haven't taken any pictures since Christmas. My husband declined rapidly right after the holidays almost like he held on for Christmas and then just let go. Thanks for reminding me that I shouldn't wait for an event to take their pictures. Every day moments with your kids are treasures. Right now we're in the blurr of things and even though it's rough, I don't want to forget these moments either.

I'm glad I read the comment above, I'm wondering if she's going to have a moment during the party where she realizes Daddy isn't coming. She's been waiting for him to come home from heaven, as much I've explain to her that he can't come home. She'll probably hope for it anyway, so thanks for the heads up.
Thanks for your blog, I stumbled upon it last week and I'm so grateful to you for your posts.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...


I'm so sorry for your loss. I'd love to connect with you on FB and Twitter if you like, I provide a lot of peer support as well as helping people find groups and other resources for themselves and their families.

I know this is only the beginning of your journey and you are probably swamped, exhausted, overwhelmed and numb, but keep us in mind for whenever you're ready.

Remember that you are not alone and we'll be here with hugs (and chocolate) whenever you want to stop in.



Kori said...

This was in my shared items in google reader this afternoon, and I had to click through instead of reading and deleting like I so often do. I wanted to tell you that your writing in beautiful, that you and your daughter are beautiful, that it shines through in every word. Yet how egotistical to think that any word from me can impact anything! Just-I loved this, on so many levels; thank you.

Vanessa said...

There's a huge gap in my photo record that lasts for nearly a year after my husband died. I had always taken tons of pics of everything - even really mundane stuff like grocery shopping - and that first year I didn't even get one shot of Christmas. I think somewhere in the back of my head, I thought if I didn't document that year it wouldn't be real, but it was.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Kori, LOL, are you kidding!? A compliment from you, I will be basking all day. Thank you kindly.

Vanessa, you just reminded me of some video I shot trying to document our "ordinary life" during those last terrible months of Gavin's life. Good thing I can't dig them up right now. But someday, as you say, that documentation will be valuable evidence for me. (Though it would be frightfully boring to anyone else). Thanks for sharing your experience! Hugs!

Mel said...

This is a gorgeous photo. I love it.

With my son at a similar age, seeing her silhouette almost feels like looking at him.

Though I usually feel that our stories are so similar, this photo reminds me of how different they are. We all have such unique stories.

Thank you for making me think, as always...!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Mel, and it's funny, one thing I get out of reading YOUR blog is the memory of what Shortie was like at 2.5 and 3, during our most difficult year. The memories of her tantrums and her charms then bring back what the rest was like.


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