She can’t remember things like she used to. It started gradually-she’d forget a name or a birthday or where she parked her car. And then, she found herself forgetting every day things, those things one must remember in order to live life. She would forget to go to the grocery store; she’d forget a conversation that occurred ten minutes earlier; she would forget to eat dinner.
They call it Dementia, and it is, although the word is more of an umbrella term that covers many types of memory loss. And Dementia, well, it’s a tricky thing, because even those systems and techniques created to stir the memory and bring things to mind don’t always work. I mean, a calendar does no good if you can’t remember to look at the calendar each day, right? You forget that you don’t remember.
And THAT is hard.
She now lives in an environment of specialized memory care with others who struggle with the same memory problems. It is warm and welcoming and she has her own apartment, as do others. But remembering where an apartment is located can be difficult. You can write down the number and keep it in your pocket, but then, you must remember that you wrote it down and put it in your pocket. The specialists at the memory care apartments know this; they know the struggles and how difficult in can be when you can’t trust your memory.
For this reason, outside each memory care apartment is a large shadow box, attached to the wall. It has a glass front and can be filled with personal items that assure the residents that the door next to the box is, indeed, theirs.
I walked through the hallways of this memory care facility, pausing to look at many of these “memory boxes.” I was curious to see what these dear folks put into their boxes to remind them of who they are and where they belonged. What were the items that spoke to that place in their mind and heart that still remembered?
As I strolled down the hallways, every memory box I saw contained family photographs.
Allow me to repeat that, ‘cause people, this is important…
they were filled with family photographs.
NOT a USB drive.
NOT a link to an online gallery.
NOT a mobile phone.
NOT a tablet or a computer or a hard drive.
They were filled with photographs. Printed pieces of paper from which their family smiled back. Some were filled with a mixture of old and new; a black and white image of a handsome WWII soldier; a faded photo of a bride and groom cutting a cake; a recent image of a family of 5 against an Arizona backdrop.
And in that moment, I wanted to shake every photographer who doesn’t see the value in printing their clients’ photos. I wanted to shake every person who thinks all they need are the digital files, which will be shared on Facebook and then disappear when they really need them.
I wanted to shake everyone who cares enough to take a picture but doesn’t care enough to print it.
That’s a lot of shaking. My arms are gonna get tired. But folks, it’s time we WAKE UP.
Printed photographs are a life-line. They are beacons of light in a world of shadows. They are a living breathing document that says “I AM” and I have a special place in this world.
They are HOME.
If you aren’t printing your photographs, you are losing memories.
Don’t let that happen.
Don’t let that happen.