I don’t have a picture of him.
It was a simple enough assignment. Gather old photos of him for a collage at the restaurant, ones of him laughing, cracking a joke, the fishing rod in hand heading out to the boat, calling out over his shoulder, sitting on the dock with a cigar and a neat glass of tequila, watching the sun coming down, coming in with the kids, standing at the grill, loading the truck, playing light sabers with the little one. I looked through all the hundreds of photos I took over years of vacations together and there wasn’t even one. Not one of us watching the TV show about haunted New England lighthouses together. Not one of him bringing in the boat. Not one of him untangling a rod.
The only photos I have of him are in my mind, my memory. The moments when we were together we not the ones we photograph–they were the simple everyday moments, like when you pour a drink or flip a burger, or break open a lobster. Now I wish I had marked all those moments as spectacular–worthy of capturing on film for posterity. They were ordinary in the most extraordinary of ways. I wish I had photographed every one so that I could make a thousand collages, line the halls with them, one after another. See how he lived! He lived.
I think that even though I know that saving his image, freezing it on paper, would not have saved him from cancer.
My cousin Larry died a week ago after a short, intense and courageous fight. He was 43. He taught Max to fish and use a pocket knife. He fixed things that got broken and loved his daughter fiercely. He made me feel like a rock star whenever I made my guacamole. The way he gobbled up my guacamole healed thousands of tiny holes in my heart.
I don’t have a picture of him, but if I did, I can’t imagine that it would capture the brightness of his spirit, his gentle ferocity, his wry and quiet sense of humor. And knowing this, I know, I have everything I need.
In gratitude for having known him, I bow my head and lift one small glass of high end tequila poured neat and settle in to the crook of the couch and smile wryly. This is how he will live. This is how we all keep living.