My grandpa passed away yesterday, at 87 years old. He had colon cancer and a number of other heath issues that he kept private up until two months ago. So while his death was sudden to my extended family, it was not to himself and my grandma. Upon reflection, my family and I notice the small affairs he put in order in the last year or so was really his expert planning. He used excuses that didn’t alarm anyone, but accomplished his goals.
My grandpa led a full life in his 87 years. Even in his passing, he planned it expertly. He passed at 1:45pm, giving the family the afternoon to grieve together. We went through suitcases of mementos and photos. He served in the Navy, fathered four children, and was married to my grandma for 64 wonderful years. He served as mayor of a small town, worked at AAA, and made beautiful wooden toys.
He did not understand technology very well. He and my grandma loved to go antiquing every chance they could. He only got rid of his rotary phone when he could not call Medicare customer service without a touch-tone phone. He did have a flip phone cell phone…for calling long-distance. He did embrace DVDs, but mostly to watch his favorite old TV shows.
As my family and I went through the suitcases, someone commented about how people just don’t make photo albums anymore. I thought about that for a bit. We take photos of everything and upload them to Instagram, Facebook, Google, or whatever site is the newest “it” thing. We keep “backup” copies on cloud storage, external hard drives, or just on our computer hard drives. And looking around at all the photos in my grandpa’s old suitcases, I realized that as wonderful as having digital copies are, they really do not replace physical copies of the important photos.
Through all the “noise” of a thousand digital photos, do you have favorites? A silly photo from the beach, a formal family portrait, or a touristy photo from a trip abroad? Print them out, organize them in an album, toss them in a shoebox or make a scrapbook. You don’t need to go to the craft store and buy tons of different papers, stickers, and cutouts, just something with acid-free paper where you can write some notes and glue a few pictures. It may not be something you want to look at for a while or at all, but others might. Alternatively, create a digital album of favorite photos, but make sure the information to get to it is left somewhere (i.e. leave passwords and directions to it in your will).
Unexpected or not, we all will pass away. There will be people who will want to celebrate your life. Make sure you lived in the moment, kept a journal of thoughts on important days of your life, took a few pictures, and put them all in a memory box outside your head and heart.
Technology enables us to do so much more and gives us access to so much more information, but my grandpa’s passing has reminded me that technology does not always mean better. Sometimes, the old way is perfect just the way it is.
Rest in Peace, Kenneth Roy Oates, 1926-2014.