On a recent trip to Italy, I developed an interest in photography.  There were simply too many picture-perfect moments that I had to honor with the click of my camera.  And so, for Christmas, my parents bought me a gift for the purpose of cultivating this new and creative interest of mine – a new camera!

Since then, I have gone click-crazy in an attempt to capture significant, meaningful moments – including those which feed not only my soul, but fill my stomach as well!  I now have well over two hundred pictures from Christmas and New Year’s alone, not including snapshots of foods and beverages!

One too many pictures of café lattes and almost a month later, I am still finding joy in reviewing all of the pictures over and over again.  In fact, I find this true of most pictures – photographs from my own childhood.  It is as if by remembering and recalling the moments captured on film that they become real again.  I can look back at each picture taken and recount with near precision what occurred on that particular day.

Looking back and remembering have become significant since the death of my brother – and I have found great peace in doing so.  While I may not be able to experience any present or future moments with John, it has been with the help of a photograph, actually many photographs, that I am able to remember moments that may have been forgotten over the years.

I have many favorite pictures of John and myself, ones which at first glance, I can almost smell the air of that given day or recall what I was thinking.

One picture however is most precious to me and it is one which does not engage my senses as others might, but gives an opportunity to imagine what was going on for both John and me.  The picture is of my brother, who was then eleven, and me, a newborn.  John was holding me, and as he held me, my eyes were looking up quite intently into his eyes.

A lovely example of, what one might call a “bonding moment.”  I can only imagine what synapses were going off in my mind then, and how that moment affected our relationship in following years – I often wonder what significance, if any, that moment had in our close sibling relationship.

That picture of John and me has found a home on my bureau, and so every morning I can look at it, remembering and thereby making new once again a feeling of comfort.  While the future is something I cannot share with my brother I am able to recount with great joy the past that we shared.  And so in a peculiar way, I remember the past but experience in the present what I valued most when my brother was alive – whether that be his love, comfort, or goofiness!

I am grateful for that picture of a memory, as well as many others.  I am grateful for not only the picture, but perhaps more so, the memory that comes back as a result of having the photograph to see with my eyes.

I intend to continue photographing both the significant and seemingly insignificant so that in my future, I will have other moments to look back on, both figuratively and literally.  And in so doing, can make new once again those instances which were gifts, gifts which may have gone unnoticed and likewise not remembered – similar to that moment with my brother.

So, picture me a memory.

Kate McGrath 2011

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Kate McGrath

My journey began on March 22, 1986. There is nothing any more or less significant about my story than there is another person’s story; however, my story is unique nonetheless. I am twenty-four years old, a graduate student working towards a degree in Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Thanatology, and an admirer of the simple gifts in life: refreshingly cool air, hot apple cider, the way leaves pick up and float gently in the air. My story has had its share of challenging moments, one of which was the loss of my older brother and only sibling, John. John was involved in an alcohol related motor vehicle accident. This event has undoubtedly shaped who I am today and who I want to become, professionally speaking, in my future. Grief, I have found, has an uncanny sense of humor – it can shake you to your core and simultaneously help you to see more clearly the importance of each day. While the death of my brother is a significant chapter in my life story, I have grown from that tragic experience and have come to realize that because of that chapter, I am at a place where I doubt I would be had my brother not died. I am grateful for the gift of my life; along with the many experiences I have had thus far – the bitter and the sweet, and have found that often, the bitter moments are what make life more significant. If my life had involved only moments of joy and happiness, I wonder if I would be able to recognize that individual quirks of others, someone’s voice, even the way someone’s clothes smell, are indeed memories to hold onto – from my experience, I believe those would have been taken for granted. All chapters in my life have been formative – and for all of those, I am grateful.

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