It’s fair to say things have been a bit bleak of late. We don’t need to go into the how or the why — there’s plenty of that elsewhere — but it’s reminded me of something I wish I’d learnt decades earlier in life, something I think every single one of us needs to hear.
TAKE MORE VIDEOS.
As someone who’s lost more than her fair share of loved ones, I can tell you with certainty that when you’re suddenly facing the world without someone, you don’t want photos. You don’t want frozen, posed snapshots where everyone’s looking in the same direction and no one’s thinking anything more than “can I stop smiling yet?”
You want videos.
Well, actually, you want to step directly into a random Tuesday, spending time with your loved one on a completely unimportant occasion. You want everyone in their casual clothes, speaking in that unguarded way they do when no one’s pointing a camera at them, doing totally ordinary things because this is just an ordinary day and there will be many, many more.
But you can’t have that. So videos it is.
Given that we carry professional-grade camcorders everywhere we go, surprisingly few of us make a habit of taking video – especially just of ourselves being ourselves. We’ll take one of a big exciting moment, or a well-choreographed prank for social media (or fifty thousand fireworks we’ll never bloody watch), but we don’t film ordinary life with our loved ones. Which means when there’s suddenly no ordinary life left, we can’t rewind. There’s nowhere to go back to.
It’s amazing how fast facial expressions, gestures, and most of all, voices fade from our memories. Bereaved people sometimes end up listening to a loved one’s voicemail greeting over and over again, because it’s the only recording of their voice that still exists.
I’ve thanked my lucky stars a thousand times that my dad was looking for a new job when he died, because if not for the video interview made just weeks before we lost him, I would have no idea how he sounded, or how he looked when he talked. It’s two hours of him discussing the most mundane work and life stuff imaginable, and it is everything to me.
And when his parents, my nan and grandad (that’s them in the main photo) passed, we quickly realised we didn’t make the videos we wanted to watch when they were gone. We ended up sharing old recordings of the kids in the family, because sometimes you could hear one of them pipe up in the background. Just being themselves, talking about normal things on a normal day.
None of us knows how many normal days we’ll get. And while it might seem strange at first to film those mundane Mondays at home, I think it’s something we all need to get used to: taking little clips, all the time, of how we spent our lives together.
So if you need something to focus on, something you can guarantee you’ll be glad you did, that’s the best advice I can give. Take video. And take care.