For a growing number of baby boomers, end of life issues are something we have to deal with now. And if not now, then in the near future. The shock of being told you’re going to die cannot be underestimated. We all know it’s going to happen one day; but couldn’t we just fall over from a heart attack or stroke instead of being told we have six months, a year, whatever.
In fact, having time to deal with end of life issues is a real blessing. It gives us a chance to decide how we want to be remembered. If we’ve spent the majority of our adult lives pursuing a career, slowing down will give our families a chance to re-acquaint themselves with daddy, mommy, grandma, Aunt Betty, Uncle Charlie. This is precious time and with a little thought, it can be the best time of all.
All you need to make memories is time and a camera. It doesn’t have to be a fancy camera. Digital cameras have come down in price and anything with 5 megapixels or more will be just great. The beauty of a digital camera is that you can see the image right away. If you don’t like it, you can take another. If you can afford a camcorder to take movies, that makes it even better. Although you’ll still want to take still photos for albums.
Six years ago, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening lung disease. My sons were grown and married but there were no grandchildren. Suddenly the grandchildren started coming and I started to panic. How would they remember me? Even if I lived a little longer than my doctor thought I would – and in fact I’ve lived a lot longer than he thought I would – they would still be young when I died. Each of my two sons had digital cameras but having been a photographer for over 30 years, I was still holding on with both hands to my 35 millimeter and my fancy slide film.
As soon as I saw how easy and inexpensive digital pictures were, I reluctantly joined the digital revolution. No more $5 and $6 rolls of professional film. No more waiting to see how the photos turned out. Every family get together included a blur of clicking cameras. And they still do. My older daughter-in-law showed an interest in learning how to take portraits they way I do, so I gave her a few tips. Now her photos of her two sons, my grandsons, look incredibly professional. Both my daughters-in-law have cameras at hand when I visit. So they have photos and I have photos and among all of us, we could wallpaper a room with photos of me with my family.
When I visit my grandchildren or spend time with friends, I bring my camera along. We’ve captured memories that will live with those who love me forever. I didn’t quite appreciate the impact of these photos until my older son related this story to me. He was sitting with his first-born son, looking at the family photo album. Sudden, my grandson put his fingers to his nostrils and started breathing in deeply. With his free hand, he pointed to a picture of me with my oxygen on. Grandma Carol. He knew that Grandma Carol, who was sitting with him in her lap, needs to breathe oxygen and he was imitating my breathing.
There are photos of my grandchildren and I playing together, celebrating their birthdays together, celebrating my birthdays together, just hanging out together. And when I’m gone, I will still be a part of their lives and those of my children, and my friends, in the photos we took and the memories we made — and memories will live forever.