It is often stated that a picture is worth one thousand words. While I am not sure if the actual word count necessary to describe a picture is actually quantifiable, I suspect the number 1000 is used merely as a point of reference for comparison. In comparison to literary descriptions, pictures give the viewer an irrefutable snapshot of a place in time that, unlike words, is tangible and real. Words on a page cause our imaginations to generate our own, unique, images of the scene described. The pictures our minds paint may be intricate and beautiful, but they are merely interpretations based on our own personal experiences and are not real.
Pictures, on the other hand, leave little to the imagination – bombarding us with visual facts that our brain doesn’t have to decipher as much as it has to store. In a very real sense, pictures perfectly capture time and save it in perpetuity – immutable and unchanging. Instead of yielding our memories to the inevitable entropy of time, each picture we make is a tiny victory against its unstoppable passage and the inevitable yielding of our memories to its eraser. Where words may fail us in trying describe what the eyes see, a picture tells a truth that never changes.
We have many, many pictures of Rees. We have pictures of him that represent nearly every facet of his short life. In some ways, I feel like we have so many pictures that it would be possible to string them together and splice them with the videos we have and make a moving picture show of his life that would recall all of his important milestones as well as those quiet, “just because” moments. Every picture we have of Rees is something I find myself looking over again and again in order to remind myself of what it was like to have him in our life.
Memories fade. Sam and I talk about how we are forced to stop and remind ourselves of what it was like to have Rees be a part of our world physically. I forget what it was like to have him sit next to me in his high chair at dinner time. I struggle to remember what it was like to hear his infectious giggles every morning and his laughter at night.
I have trouble recalling his intonation of his favorite word: “Tractor!”.
It feels like the march of time is washing away the memories of him like the ebbing tide removes our footprints on a beach – and I am as powerless to stop this memory loss as I am to stop the flow of the tides themselves.
Thankfully, we have those photos and videos to remind us of those fading memories. When I find myself forgetting what it was like to see his smile I can turn to his pictures and refresh that fading memory.
When the sound of his voice stops reverberating through my mind I can watch a video and hear him again. All of those pictures remind me of what he was. All of those pictures keep his memory alive. All of those pictures bring me pain…
The photos we have remind us that all of what Rees was lies in the past. The photos of Rees tell a story that ends on October 27th, 2012. I love those photos of Rees. I hate those photos of Rees.
Photos capture time and save it exactly as it is. Photos never change. Photos are the pictures that only tell the side of the story that takes place before the present. Photos are not the only pictures we have of Rees.
I think in our modern world we just assume that pictures mean photographs. I thought I had every picture I would ever own of Rees. I thought his story was complete and those finite images were the proof. I was wrong. The portrait of Rees that was commissioned by a Rees’ piece we never met told us that Rees is still here. He is making an impact in people’s lives and he is present. When I look upon this portrait I see my little boy. I see his spirit, I feel his presence. There would be no reason for someone to paint a portrait of Rees unless they felt the same thing. A person who never met my little boy – who never met any of us until she presented us with this amazing gift. When I am down I gaze upon this picture and I only smile. There are no tears. There are no sad memories… there is only one thing: Hope.
I know Rees is “out there” somewhere. I can see what he is doing from afar. 40,000 “Pay it forward” cards bestowing an equal number of acts of kindness are all the proof I need to see it. Little Red points dotting the interactive globe on our website show that Rees’ spirit has literally reached across the globe to 21 different nations. If you share our story with others, don’t tell them about our tragedy – tell them about our triumph. Death is not the end. The power of human kindness continues to prove to me over and over that the human spirit is something greater than I can quantify. Our pictures tell us that Rees is no longer with us, but his portrait proves his spirit is. I love you little man, I know you can hear me. I know you are out there. I don’t have to look far to find you, because I can see you in every Rees’ piece you touch.