A kick in the gut.

Early this morning, I was at Walmart picking up a few things and I was wearing an old t-shirt that advertises my business.  I rarely wear it in public anymore because my brand and business have grown much since I first got it.  But, I wasn't feeling too spectacular this morning and I knew I would be in and out using those convenient self checkers.

As I was running my stuff through, the older cashier spoke to me and asked me if I was the actual photographer of the business.  I smiled and told her that I was, she asked me if she could have my information, I naturally replied, of course, and handed her a business card.  I paused from my groceries to give her my full attention, all the while thinking, "my husband and my brother have always told me to look nice in public since I represent my business", and here I am standing in tatty clothes and flip flops asking her what kind of pictures she's interested in.

She is an older woman, there's much life lived showing in her eyes and face as she sighs and tells me that her daughter is in the military and will be home for Christmas.  We chit chat briefly about how nice it will be for her to have her family home for the holidays.  Her entire demeanor lights up as she tells me about her large and extended family, there is a double digit number of grandchildren and some great grandchildren that she is hoping will all be there.  Her hands flow around her face in an illustration of her excitement as she chats on about the mere prospect of having them all in one picture.

I tell her to call me as soon as she has solid information about when her family will be in town so we can be sure to reserve a spot on the schedule for them.  She tells me that she will, that she'll call them to find out if they know when they'll be coming down and if they will have pictures made with her.  She looks down at the card in her hand, rubbing it's edges along her thumb in the manner that many people use when they want to speak but don't know if they should.  I still haven't gone back to my groceries yet, I ask her if she needs any more information from me.  She says no and then, she looks up at me and says, I lost three grandchildren this year, two great grandchildren and one granddaughter.  I wish that I had thought of getting pictures sooner, I wish I had seen you sooner.  I wish that I had pictures of the babies with everyone to look at because I'm tired of seeing little caskets.

I stood there, flat footed and kicked in the gut.  What do you say in a moment like that?  What can you say?  I reached over and hugged her, told her how sorry I was for her losses and that I would do whatever I could to help her have family pictures and I finished up my groceries and left feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

I had a discussion with a good friend recently about family heirlooms, material items passed from one family to the next.  These things are important and hold value but, the majority of the things that I hold dear, won't really matter to my grandchildren.  It is something that they can put on a shelf and say, that belonged to grandma.  But, they don't treasure it, they don't take it down and pass it around at family gatherings, they don't look at that object and remember a loved ones smile or laugh.  They pass around pictures.  They pass around those brief seconds in time that remind us where we come from and who brought us there. They pull out photo albums and laugh about the time grandma got drunk and swore at Kenny Rogers on the TV.  They remember the times they went fishing, the Christmases spent together, the leavings and the coming backs.

Have pictures done with your family.  But, don't just get them done, print them, hang them on your wall, put them in albums and preserve these brief moments.