I've been thinking about what I'm leaving behind for my loved ones when my time has come. Am I doing a good enough job?
It all started the other day I had a Kairos moment while listening to We Used to Wait by Arcade Fire. If you are unfamiliar with the term, Kairos is a Greek word meaning right, critical, or opportune. You see, the Greek had two terms for time: Chronos, which stands for sequential time (think ticking clock), and Kairos, a time for action.
My thoughts definitely inspired some action from me.
"I used to write."
The first few lines of the song remind me of my mom, she's a great writer. Many times growing up my mom used to tell me about a diary that she use to write in. It was something for me to have when I got older to keep track of her thoughts and my milestones. Throughout the years she has joked about how her dedication in the beginning eventually faded out as the time when on. Laughing at how a beautiful entry eventually turned into:
Dear Koren, You had cake today. Love, Mama.
Life just got busy, by the time my brother and sister were born her way of documenting our lives had evolved. She started to photograph everything, from our days playing with the kids in her daycare to major life milestones and everything in between, always making sure to get into a few of the photos herself.
It's important to note, that although she had fallen in love with digital photography, her love of writing never died. Now instead of diaries I find her love notes in places like cards and facebook.
(Quick note to my mom: Awh. You are the best. Love you Mama.)
"I never took my true heart. I never wrote it down."
All of that being said, it's probably no surprised, that the one of the first pieces of advice my mom gave when my daughter was born was to write things down. Unfortunately I never did.
It's not because I didn't want to, like my mom before me (and probably all moms throughout all of time), I just got busy. But what I lack in words, I can more than make up for with photos. I have so many photos, like soooo many. A mind boggling amount really. I'm sure you can relate, with how easy it is to take a photo on our phones, I'm betting you have a photo for every day your child has been alive. I know I do!
"SOMETHING SO SMALL CAN KEEP YOU ALIVE."
Which lead me to my Kairos moment:
Having an unlimited amount of baby photos is not the same thing as having the letters from my mom or the intentional photos she took.
Don't get me wrong, random baby photos are awesome (not to mention freaking adorable) but for me, even if I could to see a thousands close up photos of myself it would never be as meaningful as the letters from my mom. While a baby album filled to the brim with pictures me can teach me a lot about myself growing up, it won't do much to keep the memories of my mom alive (well other than saying she was one proud mama).
Thinking about all of this I started to realize that my mom took the time to write things down and pull out her camera for more than just remembering things. She also did it so I can have a connection to her. Seeing her face and reading her words makes me feel close to my mom, especially after not seeing her for a while. I don't get the same feeling looking at just pictures of me.
Which leads me to my action in this critical moment (aka Kairos moment):
What can I do to leave behind something just as powerful for my kids to keep my memory alive like my mom has done for me?
Clearly the answer is in front of my face. Like literally in front, you know since I spend a lot of time behind a camera. Yep, you guessed, more photos! Specifically taking more intentional photos of my kids living their life and *gulp* with me.
At this point it's pretty safe to say taking intentional photos of my kids isn't too hard. After taking some time and really diving into my goals I've really begun to see what inspires me to pick up my camera. Taking a note from my mom, I've started to focus on telling the stories of my kids's lives.
So photos let's see what I've got here...
Photos of the kids being themselves? Check.
Photos of the adventures the kids have? Check.
Photos with the kids with there dad and other loved ones? Check.
Photos of the kids with myself? ...YIKES.
"I used to wait."
Just so you know, taking photos does not mean I like photos taken of me. Flashing back to my note above about my mom loving photos, I'm sure you thought that is when my love for photography was born. It wasn't. In fact, I kinda hated having my photo taken (imagine lots of sarcastic teenage sighs and eye rolls directed towards my undeserving, wonderful mama, sorry mom!!). And I still... kinda... hate having my photos taken. It's scary. I feel awkward. I feel insecure. I FEEL DREAD. It's just not fun. So I use to put it off.
I used to wait.
But inside my little Kairos moment, my right moment, I forgot about me for second.
I forgot my feelings and I thought about my kids. I thought about my husband. I thought about all the people who might want to remember me. People who need a way to keep my memory alive. People who want to feel a connection to me when they can't be with me.
Yeah... My insecurities don't seem as big after that...
"WAIT FOR IT."
I'm not gonna lie, having a photo taken of me is still hard. My fears and worries didn't disappear over night, they're all still there. But what I learned is: I need to push past it. I realize now just because a picture is taken of me doesn't mean it's always for me. Sometimes it's for my mom, sometimes it's for my husband, sometimes it's for my kids or grandkids or great grandkids. Someimes it's for someone that's not me that need a way to remember me.
So now you can wait for it, because I've gotten myself in action. I'm gonna get in the frame more, I'm gonna leave my fears at the door and remember I'm doing this for someone else. Someone who loves it. Someone who just sees me instead of my flaws. Someone that needs to keep my memory alive.
So, yeah... I'm taking a page from my mom and I'm no longer just documenting, I'm storytelling and leaving behind some of myself as a connection to me when I'm gone.
Wait for it.
Koren Smith Photography is a Documentary Family Photographer based in Bellevue, NE. She specializes in taking natural, unprompted, and unposed photos centered around your family's unique life experiences. From birth to teens, she's focused on documenting your family's real-life moments every step of the way.
*All the headings in this post are lyrics from the song We Use to Wait by Arcade Fire.