A Reminder of What Once Was

I spent a great deal of time today searching for a photo.

I accidentally happened upon this photo last week while digging through various picture albums and storage boxes on New Years Eve. It brought tears to my eyes when I found this particular picture, and so I decided I'd set it aside in a much smaller box I'd designated as "Photos To Be Scanned At A Later Date."

I added perhaps 300 other pictures to this small box, scanned perhaps 100 of them in the hours before midnight, and then set it all aside.

This morning, I went to get the photo that had brought tears to my eyes, intent on scanning it for my parents, and it wasn't in the box. I took every single photo out of that box and put them back in, one by one.

I did this four times, searching carefully through them.

It wasn't there.

I went through every other photo album and searched my larger photo boxes, which easily contain 3-4,000 photos, just in case I'd accidentally put this photo somewhere else. And still, it was nowhere to be found.

You see, this photo is the only picture I know of with me, my brother and my sister as adults. It was taken back in 1992 when I was 19. Back then I still believed that one day we three would all get old and we'd sit around reminiscing about how crazy competitive we all were when we played Monopoly together.

I could not imagine when I sat next to my brother, smiling for that picture, that years later he would take his own life. Indeed, today my family observes the saddest sort of anniversary, only the third since my brother made the irrevocable choice of suicide.

One friend suggested I pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things and missing persons. Perhaps then the photo would return. Another suggested I pray to my ancestors. Yet another suggested that I stop looking and start finding because, "Looking is infinite, finding is immediate. So just stop, take a breath, declare that you are done looking and are ready to find and listen for instructions on where to find."

Ancestors and St. Anthony were invoked and then, frustrated, I stopped looking.

Many hours later, I'd given up on finding that photo of me with my siblings. Instead, I began packing the pictures up, putting the various boxes of them back in the closets I'd retrieved them from. Eventually there was nothing left but my box of "Photos To Be Scanned At A Later Date". It sat forlornly in the middle of my dining room floor.

I sat down next to the box and decided to resume my task of scanning. So, I sifted through the pictures, enjoying them and smiling at the memories the images in my hands brought to mind.

I found myself laughing incredibly hard at one particular photo from 1994. It's of one of my best friends taking a photo of me while I was taking a photo of her. And, as I laughed, I picked the picture up to set it aside for scanning, revealing, right underneath it... the photo of me, my brother and my sister.

Where was it the previous four times I'd meticulously been through that box, picture by picture? I have no answers for that. I can only credit St. Anthony, my ancestors and declaring that I'm finished looking for the photo's eventual return.
My family was always waiting for my brother to return, too. We all wanted so desperately to have back the person he was before the cycle of addiction took hold of his life. Looking at this picture now, it's a bit hard to see our smiles when I know what harsh realities and sad circumstances were truly simmering just beneath the surface.

But I'm glad to have this picture nonetheless, if only as a reminder of the fleeting happiness that once was. Despite everything, we loved him. And so now scanned into digital form, the original of this photo is tucked in a much safer place, between the pages of my prayer book.

We all need those prayers. Truly, we do.


That was nice Liz. I still can't look at pictures of one of my brothers who's no longer here. But I did scan them and saved to my harddrive.
This was absolutely moving.

Thank you.
Anonymous said…
Hi Liz,
A picture paints a thousand words! Its a good job that you have your faith, stay strong, focussed and keep using your special personal traits to uplift you!
The photo was moved by your bro who was just showing you some love from the other side. He is guiding and protecting you with love that knows no bounds. He wants you to know that he loves you so much and that he is sorry. Your forgiveness will help his soul to reach the place it needs to be. Your happiness is all he wants. Your sons he guides. He wants the peace that your love will give him this, your forgiveness will release him.
Jessalyn said…
I'm so glad the photo was found! Many hugs your way.
Anonymous said…
A very sad business. Suicide is such a hard thing to understand. Glad you found the photo again.
liz glad you found the photo.

It's a beautiful picture.
Anne said…
Thanks for sharing that very personal story. Sending prayers for you and your family.
jamaise said…
Your writing is important.I'm glad the saints & your ancestors are pulling for you.
Gayatri said…
Sister, What an appropriate channeling of the emotions of this day. I am always bowled over by your clear seeing-writing ... reason no. 12 to love Liz. She write with such simple clarity and knowing that it can make tears well up in your eyes. Prayers.
Mes Deux Cents said…

Sometimes your words are so amazing I have no words...this is one of those times.
1969 said…
Beautiful. I am sorry for your loss but that picture will remind you always that you loved each other. That's all that matters.
David Sullivan said…
Beautiful picture of you all.

Me and my siblings had a picture talen of us at my mother's funeral recetion back in 1999 and I thought it would be the last one of us all together, but then we had one taken in the summer of 2007when, by chance and luck we were all in town. We all had dinner at my house.

I often wonder if that will be the last time we will all be together...
Dena said…
i agree with you, liz. sometimes it's hard to look at old pictures of family members at a time when things were good. there's this family picture i have (before my step mom became sick and passed away from cancer) capturing smiles of all of us before the horrible deterioration my step mom experienced. i look at that picture and i don't know who any of those people are anymore.

any experience, especially ones that are difficult, change who we are forever. i'm not saying this is a bad thing.....we grow the most spiritually and emotionally when times are rough.....but i can totally relate to how you're feeling. thank you for sharing.
love you!!
sippinwineman said…
. . . . . .I'm glad the picture found you. Now wipe your tears and scan, baby, scan. Nice pic, btw
Liz Dwyer said…
The photo is definitely scanned now, that's for sure. There are so few pictures of my brother that I suppose when I see one, I get fascinated by it, and try to reconcile the person with the image, but I hear you.

Not tellin' you my name,
No, thank you for reading and reflecting on my musings. But what is your name? :)

The photo's reappearance is nothing short of miraculous. Perhaps my brother had a hand in it. You are probably right about that. And true, forgiveness releases us all, but it is not the easiest thing to do for me. But if I can't forgive, then that bitterness just consumes endlessly, you know?

I'm glad too. Hugs to you too.

A sad business, indeed. Sometimes when folks ask me why I think he did it, I give my reasons why I think, but ultimately, there's no good reason for it, ever.

Yes, me too. It would have haunted me for days if it hadn't reappeared.

Thank you so very much for the prayers. They mean a lot.

I think someone must be pulling for me because otherwise... sigh. Sometimes, on days like yesterday, I think those saints and ancestors are the only thing keeping it all together for me.

I wrote this after chatting with you last night, so thanks for helping me get all that anger about everything else going on off my chest. And then after I wrote it, I washed the dishes...lol, I can NOT go to sleep with a messy kitchen!

Thanks for saying that. My brother's memory deserves nothing less I suppose.

Yes, that is all that matters. I think he did the best he could in the life he had, as do we all. Hugs to you.

It's a strange thing how we never know when's the last time we're going to see someone or when's the last photo we'll ever take with them. I suppose the lesson is to cherish the time you spend together, whether it's good or bad, because that time may never come again.

Exactly... I look at that picture and we're all different people now. I'm totally different, my sister certainly is, and my brother, well... but the change is what it is. For him, I think of it as being a spiritual reset button. For all the rest of us, it certainly has been a catalyst of sorts, that's for sure.

It is scanned! The one funny, super shallow thing I keep thinking about is that I think my fingernails are looking pretty fly in the photo! All natural, no fake nails for me! :)
Anonymous said…
Los Angelista,
How is it, on back-to-back days, you touch my own life like that?
But, whereas yesterday reminded me of the funny odd twists of my life, today, well, that’s a different story …
I’m convinced we learn to accept the loss, the fact they really are gone, move forward with our “survivor” lives, but we never really heal from it. Not sure if it’s totally possible when one you love ends their own life in desperation to stop the pain, frustration and hopeless feelings that overwhelm them. Do you ever completely put away the “woulda/coulda/shoulda” feelings, when you think about and remember them? Will the pointlessness and meaninglessness of it ever fade? The grappling with the ideas behind, just how does a person end up at that place in life, where that is the best option, when we love them so?
So glad you found the picture. Love him please, with all your heart, even when it hurts to do so. For both of you.
Shiona said…
The saying gone but not forgotten definitely rings true. There is always an emptiness there. Thank you for sharing such a moving post.
Ian Lidster said…
A sweet and sad tale, Liz, and a reminder to all of us, and we do need those prayers.

The three of you all look so happy in the photo. Sometimes life sucks, but it is what it is.
Anonymous said…
This post touched me. I lost a brother when he was 23, and it remains unclear whether it was intentional or accidental. It's hard to bear. I'm so glad you found the photo.
Liz Dwyer said…
So sad to hear that your life has been touched by this as well. So very sorry. I wish, as I'm sure you do as well, that that was not the case. Your words are incredibly wise and much appreciated.

It is a very strange emptiness. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him and pray for him. Feeling like you can still connect with someone's soul helps a bit.

It definitely is what it is. That is for sure. There's no undoing it, no erasing it all. And I've learned a whole lot about life and myself since then. Not sure if I'd be the same without this happening. Maybe better, maybe worse, but not the same.

So sorry for your loss as well. There are so many questions I have about my brother's circumstance that I can only imagine how not knowing whether it was intentional or accidental would add a whole other layer of complexity. Hugs to you.
Anonymous said…
Beautifully written. Some memories are worth having, even if they make you a little sad.
Liz Dwyer said…
Yes, that's true. Very true. Hope you and yours are well.
Lisa Blah Blah said…
I'm so, so glad you found it. And it's such a nice picture!

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