When Audrey turned one, I worked for hours editing down the thousands of photos we’d taken of her since birth and putting them together in a clean, professional looking album I created on Shutterfly. I planned to do so each year. But during her second year, everything changed. Making albums were no longer a priority. I focused on getting myself out of bed and caring for my almost two year old. On thank you notes, completing paperwork, and leaving an hour or so a day to cry by myself.
By the time of my move this past September, I had photographs in multiple places- your old computer, multiple hard drives, my old laptop, new laptop, and our old camera. The idea of sorting through all of the photographs of our last year together from all these different places, making some chronological sense of them, and steadily climbing through until the day that made each day after it “After” …was overwhelming. But recently the thought of losing the photos, of Audrey not having a guide for what our life was like then, and of year after year continuing until I could never make another album again because there were just too many photos- weighed on me heavily. And so, for the last few weeks, I’ve slowly been sorting, uploading, and creating.
I work on it a little at a time until it becomes unbearable. I wish that I could say it was mostly therapeutic, but it has been hard.
From a CD labeled, “Pics for Julia,” I uploaded the photographs I had asked someone to take at the funeral incase Audrey would ever want to see them. As I scanned through them quickly- my whole body began to tremble violently.
As I continue on with the other photos from that year, I glare at the old me: so careless, such arrogance.
I strain to see photos of you- and the album gets longer and longer because I can’t leave out that one of you at that particular angle, or the one with your elbow, or that one with that surprised expression you had.
It is difficult to edit a compilation of photos when you feel your actual life and family has already been edited down to the bare bone.
So- it is long. 111 pages.
And as I neared the great chasm…I started to date things in a way I usually don’t in photo albums “6.28.10 Monday” And then to label certain pages, “Last Family Photo,” “Reading Bedtime Stories with Appa for the last time.”
The work is tender and cruel. I am almost finished.
I debate about whether or not to include a photo from your funeral. It was, after all, a divisive part of that year of our lives. Of her life, whether she knew she was at a funeral or not. There is one that jumped out at me when I saw it going through that disc, as I trembled. I place it on one page in between the play date the day before, July 5th, and the day before that, July 4th, when she found Petey the Parrot at Trader Joe’s in the bread section and got her red lollipop; and the photos that follow- Audrey lying in the middle of my bed with a sippee cup- all of the paperwork and sympathy cards fanning out on the floor around the bed, Audrey trying on sunglasses at Duane Reade, and Audrey sitting at your desk in your chair, still with the shirt you left there hanging around it.
I place the image on a page all by itself in between these two lives…but very small…in a small square in the center of white. I have always been slightly irritated when others who have not lost a spouse and been left an only parent tell me how lucky I am to have my daughter. Of course, I love and adore her, but to hear her scream out for her father in the middle of the night, or be faced with the daily caring for a not yet two year old by myself while I grieved the sudden loss of my best friend- the feeding, bathing, changing diapers, the infinite pressure to somehow still provide what she needs when I myself felt like a shell- I would never have chosen the word “lucky.”
But in this photo- I see and know…that you, my daughter, are the reason I have survived. Thank you.
Two years ago tonight my husband died suddenly and unexpectedly. I felt completely overwhelmed to be the only parent left to raise three children….10,6 and nine months. Now I, like you, can look at them and know they helped me survive…..kept me moving. Each one is a little piece of their dad who was my soulmate….my best friend. I wish I had all my photographs organized as well as you do. They make me so sad to look at…..that is a project I have yet to tackle…..
the work is tender and cruel.
Love you Julia! So proud of you, as always.
I have been reading your work and am so incredibly inspired at what you have endured. And this photo album, putting all these memories in order, revisiting them in print, they are real. These moments with stories behind them, frozen, solidifying their truth, preserved for Audrey and you to share. How incredible for her to have this. You have accomplished a wonderful gift for your daughter. Susan
This photo made me cry. Thank you for sharing it.
That picture says so much. She will be grateful for that album. She will be grateful to know it, all of it, even the pain. And you are such an inspirational person.
She is so beautiful; wiggly and full of life.
What an incredibly difficult task you have taken on–it will be such a treasure for Audrey to have.
My husband died in a motorcycle accident in August. I have a 2&1/2yo daughter. The last two paragraphs…I know *exactly* how that feels.
I'm so sorry Risa- if I can be of any help- please email me from the about page. Sending you love…