Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This is going to start out as a confusing story. But stick with me for a minute. I have a point…I promise.

Awhile back I found myself in the annoying situation of having lost my driver’s license. I reasoned with myself that it really wasn’t that big of a deal…I was due to renew next month anyway. But, as you all know, any time you find yourself sitting in the uncomfortable plastic chairs at the DMV, clutching your number like it’s the key to heaven…well, it’s a minor irritation.

Of course, I found my driver’s license the day that the new one arrived. Not thinking twice about it, I just threw my old one right next to my new one. Besides the obvious difference of a few pounds and a different haircut, they looked pretty much the same (although I think my skin looks better in the new one…BONUS!).

And then I really looked. And I saw it.

That young woman in the old picture didn’t know what was getting ready to happen. She had no idea that just a couple of years after that picture was taken, her life would change and she would never be the same. The information on the new and old cards were the same…same address, same height, always an organ donor. But the woman was completely different.

The new one had a smile that said she was happy, but didn’t quite reach her eyes. Something said she had lived through an experience she shouldn’t have for a long time. There was a little more worry. A little more sadness. And still a little bit of disbelief.

I find myself looking at old pictures a lot around this time of year. I’ve been doing that since the first anniversary of my husband’s death. I especially look at pictures from the two months before he died. Now, my husband’s death was sudden and very unexpected, but for some reason I look at these pictures as if they’ll have an answer. I look at them and wonder how we could not have known that something so catastrophic was getting ready to happen. How could we have spent the 4th of July with family, blissfully happy and not know that this monster was waiting for us just around the corner.

My therapist has said that this sort of thing is normal. And I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear at least one of the things I’m doing is normal. But it still feels odd to be begging for an answer from my 31 year old self three years later. I know there was no reason for it. I know it was a random accident that could have happened to anyone.

But I’m still waiting for that girl to give me an answer.

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© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. I know exactly what you mean. I often think exactly the same thing as I look at pictures of myself before David died. He also died suddenly and unexpectedly 8 months ago.

  2. My driver's license story is a bit different. I let mine expire while my husband was ill. My son was getting married and I didn't have the time, patience, or even care what the date was on the license. A couple of days after the funeral I had to go to the Soc. Sec. office to fill out all the paperwork and they would not accept the driver's license. I had a new one made. At the time, I thought I was holding things together fairly well. I look at that picture and I can't even recognize myself. I still feel like I handle things well, but I often wonder now what I look like to others.

  3. I got my passport renewed right after Brian died and I hate the picture. It is downright scary!

    In expressive arts, we have a great exercise where you have a conversation between the "before" self and the "after" self. In a way you have intuitively been doing this. It is a powerful thing for the "before" and "after" selves to write letters to one another. It can even be ongoing. I do collages of my "before" and "after" so that I get out of my head more.

    Thank you for your insights.

  4. My husband had us get pictures together a week before he committed suicide....Though I hate them, I've looked at them so often. Me: not stressed, not having any idea what was about to slam into me.....Him: planning on leaving....I really wish those pictures held answers. I wish I had known why he wanted them taken. And, like Kim, the pics of me from the month after the funeral are scary!