Sometimes a snippet of an old picture, the dulling, fraying edges of the paper are enough to kindle a memory lost in the archives of time. A brief glimpse of that image is enough to transport one back into the moment and bridge the time between now and then, between what is and what was.
It has been over a year since my beloved father died, yet I have not been able to go through the albums or sort through the stacks of pictures, that are waiting patiently in a shoebox to be ordered, filed, framed and then probably restacked but in a better chronological order this time.
So, it was that glimpse of a thirteen year old picture of my father, of my much younger self and my then one year old daughter on a cold, blustery, Autumnal morning in Warsaw that made me stop in my tracks. I can still feel the cold wind skirting my ankles on that sunny morning. I can feel the chilling wind like a razor, sharp and piercing on the cheek. I can see the delight in my one year old daughter as everyone crowds round to have a picture taken with her. It is a moment stopped in time and an image that will never leave my mind.
I don’t know when I will have the courage to flick through those stacks of pictures. Grief comes with no manual. There is no chapter in the school of life that teaches one how to process loss, except for the actual experience of loss itself. There is no proper way to say good bye to my father, there will be no meetings again, there will only be memories, reams and reams of them, conversations that I will try to piece back together and moments that I will try to relive in the camera of my eye.
Pictures will remind me of what I have lost. Pictures will remind me of what I have gained by being his daughter. Pictures will never be the same because now there will always be an empty slot, where once he stood. Pictures will be incomplete as we all crowd round one another, making up for the void that is left by his loss.
Pictures will never be the same again and neither will life. Where once we stood whole and complete as a family, we now face a lifetime without him. They keep saying that time is a great healer, but time only nudges us forward, relentlessly, one tick tock at a time.
Life will find its own rhyme and rhythm, seasons will still come and go and Autumn will still make its annual appearance. But nothing will ever be the same without you my Baba Jaan and my pictures will always be incomplete without you.