Grief is a funny thing. We all handle it differently. Some of us let it wash over us, allowing the cathartic release so that we can go back to a sense of normalcy. Some defy in, reject it outwardly as it eats away at us.
I seem to have a habit of descending into what I have called “crisis mode”. I close off access to my sadness, focusing instead on the things that need to be done in order to alleviate the pressure on others. It’s only because I’ve been assaulted by tragedy in the last year that I’ve recognized a pattern in myself.
I like to think of it as a strength – I can be there for those that need it. But I’m never quite there for myself. Periodically I get this lump in my throat, triggered by even the slightest thought toward those that I’ve lost, and I pat it gently on the head, reassuring that I’ll visit when the time is right. Conveniently the time is never right.
So now I’m on a plane, heading toward the “right” time… I’ve avoided it well enough thusfar, even as I was at my grandmother’s side watching my grandfather fade slowly, yet so quickly, away. My plane barrels through the sky, heading toward the armed soldiers, ready to fire their salute at my grandfather’s valor. My family gathers as they can to say their goodbyes, many of them not as lucky as I to be able to do so in person, while he could say goodbye back.
And I’ve brought my camera. My camera, that I use as a key to enter into some of the most intimate moments of others’ lives: their weddings, their newborn babies, their families in joyous times. My camera, that I can also use as a shield, where I can focus on the work and not on the emotions bashing at the doors of my heart. My camera is what will let the hinges hold.
I can justify it though because I can create images for my family that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise have. The honor my grandfather will be given will likely not be given to any other family member for generations to come.
We will tell stories. We will share laughs. They might even share tears. But I know that as mine come, I’ll pat that lump back down, and bring that camera up, to capture theirs, hiding my own behind my lens.