It’s not that I was being picky; I had a particular problem in choosing what to read. You see, for ten years my daughter was married to a man we all loved, Robbie, and they had a boy and girl together. Everything was fine until a little over two years ago, quite unexpectedly, Robbie died of a rapid virulent cancer.
We all think it’s great that Joni has now found a new love in her life. The children adore him, and last week they acted respectively as seven-year-old best man and nine-year-old bridesmaid at our tiny ceremony – they even had short speeches to make, which they performed immaculately. My problem was that I wanted to acknowledge the past, and particularly Robbie, in the reading without it becoming maudlin or distracting from the present joyful occasion. I felt I needed to write something of my own.
Photographs are important to our family. My wife, especially, likes to take pictures of our get-togethers and celebrations, and these are prominent around our house and our daughter’s – in regular frames and digital frames, in albums, and on the home screens of our laptop computers. We all like to see Robbie’s smiling face popping up, here and there, among the other family images. Pictures, then, became the theme for my poem, my way of having Robbie there without sadness, and my way of marrying the past, present and future.
Pictures is only three short verses, and there were only ten people in the room when I read it, but I have never been so nervous, at least until I saw my daughter’s face light up with the recognition of what I was aiming for with the poem. I grew more confident once I knew I’d won her approval, and my reading ended in the warmth of fond appreciation. What I didn't know at the time was that she had secretly compiled an album of pictures to chronicle the year that had passed since she met her new husband - an illustrated journal of their relationship to date which she presented him at the wedding meal; this made my poem seem more appropriate and poignant.
Pictures was written for this very particular special occasion, but I’d like to think there is something universally applicable in what it has to say, and I hope it appeals to others outside our family circle.
These days of our lives are framed in pictures;
holidays, babies, celebrations,
for recollection in tranquillity,
for ‘What year was this?’, ‘Oh, look at you’;
for remembrance, when people go.
This day of our lives we’ll frame in pictures;
red dress, white dress, prettiness;
boys wrapped in silk ties and sly grins;
our happiness set free and
captured in pictures for
Those days, those quiet days
when we lay them in their place beside the others,
and on our knees retrace the long line of our lives.