I got my first good digital SLR about thirteen years ago. The day it arrived, I took a walk with my folks and encountered my Uncle Merle doing something in his driveway.
I couldn’t tell you what he was doing but he was standing in the bed of his truck. I had a new toy and took advantage of the moment to grab a few pictures while he was distracted, talking with my dad.
I captured two images that late winter evening.
This one I call “Confidence.”
He always looked exactly like this. The flannel, the trucker hat, that stance. And he always had a cigarette in one hand and a cold drink in the other.
He was a capable man, a confident man. The kind of guy who could take apart an engine and put it together again without hesitation. The kind of guy who worked from sun up to sun down, often doing back breaking work to care for his family. The kind of man who could diffuse any situation with a funny joke or a smart remark.
He had the best sense of humor.
I also made this image. I call this one “Just Merle.”
It wasn’t long after that evening that Merle was gone. Taken from us far too soon in a work related accident. He was just 43.
I love these pictures and am so grateful that we have them.
This is why we take pictures- not just to show our friends on social media what we had for dinner. Not just to take up space on our phones or computers. Not just to say we have them.
We make pictures to capture a moment, a place, a person important to us. We make pictures so that we can remember the gleam in the eye of a person we adored on the anniversary of their death- like today. Merle died on this day and we still miss him, we still shake our heads in disbelief that he’s gone.
He still holds a place in our hearts and at the table at every family function, even if we can’t see him. He’s forever young thanks to these and other pictures.
Incidentally, the digital files appear to be long gone but luckily I still have the prints. So don’t just collect those digital images on your device. Print them too. You never know when a phone will die or a computer explode and your images will be gone.
I would hate to think I no longer had these pictures to remember him.