Digital Archeology and Grief Waves

A few weeks ago I took out my camera.  *The* Camera.  The one I bought five years ago with the money I made helping a friend pot 60 rare orchids.  The one I took countless amateur photographs with, of us, of our children, of the natural world.  The one I left at home the morning we left for our east coast vacation…when I assumed the consuming sensation of dread I felt in my core was the result of forgetting an object.  The one I hung in a closet and didn’t touch for over a year.


I opened it up one evening a few weeks ago.  I was thinking maybe it was time to take it back out.  To explore photography again for a bit.  To see what was on the memory card, projected on the tiny black screen.


A few weeks before our trip, we had celebrated Jack Byron’s 3rd birthday.  I took my camera, like I always did, to document the family occasion.  It was a beautiful little gathering of some of our close Madison friends.  The babies and parents we had grown to know and love over the previous three years.  We held it at Happy Bambino, the storefront and parenting resource center I had facilitated a parenting group at, at the time.  I made Jack Byron a chocolate cake from scratch, and Tim decorated it with colorful icing dinosaurs.  We got balloons from the Ben Franklin next door.  I brought my guitar and lead the kiddos in song and dance.  We sang “Happy Birthday” and coaxed toddlers through their sugar highs.  It was a fun day.


I was exhausted when I got home, and I never got around the downloading the photos from the day.  Had I, I would have deleted them from the camera and left them on the hard drive of the old iMac that’s now sitting in my dank basement.  But because I was tired, and had two little children, I didn’t get a chance.  I put it off.  Thank goodness for my previous lack of motivation.


So a few weeks ago, while exploring the contents of the memory card, I hit pay dirt.  Beautiful, loving, fun photographs of Tim with both our kiddos.  Celebrating a happy day.    *New* images of my love with his loves.  His scruffy beard and permanently swirling brown hair.  His chocolate brown eyes.  The soft red flannel I had inhaled his comforting scent through when it covered his warm body.  His life force illuminated by birthday candles and buttercream frosting.

I cried.

I cried really hard. In pain.  In joy.

I clicked through the photos and touched his digital cheeks with my fingertips.  I unearthed feelings I hadn’t processed before.  I let the dark ocean crash over me and smother me with it’s suffocating pull.  Tearing through the sadness.  Unearthing the gratitude of a fresh image.  Oxytocin memory bursts.  Archeology of the griever’s soul.



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