A few days ago in a classic yours-truly klutz-fest moment, I dropped my $650 iPhone directly into the toilet.
I screamed as I dove in after it, ripped off the case, dried it feverishly, and even put it under the hair dryer.
I thought I had saved it.
It wouldn’t ring for a day or so, but all of the apps worked and I was still receiving text messages.
Then yesterday, without warning…it went black.
Upon arrival at the Verizon store, we discovered that none of my contacts, photos or videos had been backed up to iCloud. No explanation why. I am not a terribly techy person, but I had recently purchased additional storage because I have so many photos and videos on my phone, so I assumed my purchase was protecting my precious memories.
Years and thousands of photos of my kids, my friends, my loved ones, my weight loss journey…gone.
I am not even the least bit ashamed to admit to you that I dropped my head into my hands and sobbed right there in the Verizon store.
The sweet young lady helping me came around from behind the counter, sat down, and put her arm around me.
She consoled me as I cried.
She said, “I understand how you feel, I’ve been there. This is why we have tissues.”
That made me smile.
Kindness from strangers.
Hours later I left the store with a newer and fancier iPhone. They were kind and gave me a ridiculously nice phone for very little money. But honestly, I didn’t care. I felt as though I had lost years of my documented life, and traded it in for a blank slate.
I don’t want a blank slate.
There was a time when a blank slate would have been the best thing ever, when I would have done anything to erase my life and the hurt and betrayal and the maybe 20 photos I had to show for it… because I was in such a dark place.
But I don’t live there anymore.
The past 2 years have been a mountaintop.
I have experienced a zillion beautiful memories and faced a thousand fears with the courage of a lion and I have taken photos of it every step of the way.
Rock on for Zion.
The beginning of Zoë’s Starfish.
The road trips with my kids.
Zion’s behavioral progress.
Zoë’s philanthropic and academic achievements.
Dad’s amazing comeback from his heart attack.
Conquering a lifelong struggle with my weight.
Our beach vacation to Ponte Vedra.
Finally saying yes to a date and then actually going…and subsequently learning that my heart can feel things I thought were dead forever.
Recording a hymn with one of my best friends in the world after a 16 year sabbatical.
My 25 year class reunion.
My sister and my daughter’s co-birthday parties.
The family bonfire at Uncle Steve and Aunt Cathy’s house.
Every photo and video of these events….gone.
Why are photos so important?
I don’t know about you, but for me they are a window to moments when I was blissfully happy. I look at my photos constantly, as a reminder of all the blessings and love in my life.
It is also a great reminder of progress.
Those days when I feel like my belly isn’t melting fast enough….or that Zion hasn’t made any real progress in a while…or that in spite of all my practicing my voice hasn’t changed one bit…
I pull up those photos and videos and sound bytes and realize, by jove, I am making progress.
So to have lost those tangible memories is beyond painful for me.
I’m trying this morning to find the silver lining in all of this.
Even though I don’t wanna.
My heart is just big and sore today. But finding the lesson is my thing, so I’ll give it a shot.
It happened for years without me taking photos of it.
There are countless memories in my head and in my heart of which I have no photographical evidence.
You have them too. You know what I’m talking about.
Tiny, precious moments of time that remain in your heart forever.
The moment you made eye contact with a beautiful stranger.
The image of your grandmother cooking in that old farm kitchen.
The look on your best friend’s face when your high school production of The Sound of Music nailed a perfect 6 part harmony.
The way you felt the first moment you saw your newborn baby.
The way your blood surged through your body the first time your dad stood to his feet after his quadruple bypass.
The feeling you had the first time you shaquackied that baseball with a bat.
It is impossible to capture that on film.
Sure, you can take photos of it. At a dozen different angles.
You can filter and edit and crop until your fingers bleed.
But you’ll never capture the true essence and the beauty and the sheer joy of those moments in a photo, even if the photo is nostalgic and gorgeous.
Because those things are only captured by the heart.
Perhaps we spend too much time taking photos of everything that will stand still long enough, and not enough time actually being present.
Because even without photos, all of those events I mentioned still happened.
They are still in my history. They are still in my memory. They are forever in my heart.
And in the end, we all become stories.
I guess maybe the lesson here today is truly living and being present in that story, instead of trying so hard to overly document it.
And that a blank slate might not be so bad after all.
To new beginnings. And creating even more beautiful memories.