Saturday, December 31, 2011

On grief, healing, and photography

Black and white of Ayrie and a camera
This post was supposed to be written on September 29 of this year. I wanted to write something important, memorable, and poignant on that day in memory of Ayrie Mekai Murphy who died on September 29 of 2010. I wanted to post an essay that explained the grief I felt when I looked through my photos of him, the horrible sense of loss that I felt when I realized there were not many photos of him and I together, and the sadness I felt about the many photographs that I would never get the chance to take of him. It turned out that I couldn't bring myself to write that powerful essay - the words were not there. Instead I stopped blogging entirely - partly out of guilt and sadness and partly out of remorse for not being able to write something worthy of Ayrie's memory.

For Ayrie's memorial service, part of my contribution was to gather photos of him from numerous Picasa albums, have them printed, and put together poster displays for the attendees of his service to see and remember the joyous and full life that he lived in his four short years. We decided to give away photos of Ayrie at his service so that everyone would be able to take a memory of him home with them. There was something healing about having printed images of Ayrie - a lasting impression of his physicality (which, by the way, was immense for a four-year old) - images that we could share and give to others.

I look back often at photos of Ayrie, and look at them today on the eve of a new year. I think that even though I didn't honor him with this blog post on September 29th, it makes sense that I do so today. When Ayrie died I made a lot of promises to myself, to him, to the universe... I promised that I would not take my life for granted, that I would make sure to appreciate every moment and live life to the fullest, that I would honor Ayrie everyday by living a life that would impact others, as his life impacted me. I have only started to make good on those promises, and hope that this new year will be one in which I will celebrate Ayrie through my photography, my writing, my research, my work, my friendships, and my family.

The photographs I have of Ayrie and that so many of us have of loved ones who are no longer with us can serve as reminders, may provide some healing and comfort, and may reopen wounds bringing on hours of tears. As much as I would like to, I don't know that I can say anything truly universal about images and healing and grief. I can say that for me, photographs serve as archives and reminders of feelings and memories - as sort of bookmarks for important pages in my life. I am so grateful for the images that I have of Ayrie, for the series of bookmarks I have for his pages in my life, and for the memories of him that reside in those many photos of his smile. I love you, Ayrie, and plan to keep all of my promises to you as I run, leap, play, and jump into 2012.