The current family project is cleaning out my parents’ basement. What we find is often junk – scraps of old wrapping paper and empty shoe boxes - or items for donation to Goodwill and the library. But other things are bits of family history.
One of those bits is my grandfather’s photo album. The leather is so old it crumbles into dust when touched but many of the pictures are in pretty good shape. I did not know my grandfather well. He was a very private person and passed away when I was a child. Consequently, I am very interested in those photographs.
In taking the pictures and carefully placing them in a leather bound album, my grandfather told us these people and places were important to him. But sadly, not one of the photos is labeled. We recognize my grandfather, of course. My mother can identify his parents and sister. We have no idea who else is in the pictures and why the people or events were significant.
We will throw many of the photos away. Because my grandfather did not effectively communicate with us about them, they are meaningless. That makes me sad. I never thought that the caption on a picture would be so important.
I have a lot of digital pictures stored on CDs and have not taken the time to add captions to the files. After seeing my grandfather’s photo album, I made a promise to add captions to ten pictures each day. In no time, they will all be labeled so those who follow me will know something about me through the images I saved.
Communication takes time and we all have precious little of it. Based on this experience, I believe the messages you leave behind for your family are vitally important. Long after you are gone, your words, even simple captions on photographs, will connect you to those left behind. Your family will thank you.