The Family Portrait

I have a lot of family.  I mean…a lot.

Whenever we have  get togethers,  even small ones, they are pretty large.

One thing we always do is take a family portrait.

Especially of the large sibling group.

Rarely do we all make it to the same event to have all of us in the same picture.

There are pictures of five of us, six of us, seven of us….and an occasional picture of the eight of us.

Often the majority of us who make it to the event and have a picture taken make jokes about the one(s) who aren’t there.  Often having something else stand in for the person missing.  We might grab a portrait off of the wall.  My husband’s family once used a pumpkin to replace a sibling who was out of state.

And it’s done in fun.  It’s done with the history of the family jokes about who’s always late.  Who never seems to make it.   And what in the world could be more important than being there with all of us.  Right?  I mean….really.

But there is one place that is more important.  There is one thing that is going to get in the way.

And that’s when one of us takes that journey, first, to eternity.

And it scares me.

In all of our portraits up to now we can recall the excuse given by someone for  not being there and subsequently not be in the picture.  We can roll our eyes because we know there’s some ridiculousness to not being there.

But I dread that first family portrait where one of us is not visible in the picture.  Because they are no longer here.

But they remain in our lives.

Whether we can see them or not.

Don’t underestimate your importance in the family portrait.  No matter how many live in any family unit, when one is gone-they cannot be replaced.

And everyone will miss you.

If you’re in my family we will still make some stupid joke about you and your ways.  It’s what we do, laugh, even when it hurts.

But we will wish you were here, every time we look at that portrait without you.

I wrote this post before the passing of my brother in law.  And today, in talking about it with a friend of mine something occurred to me.  When we look at those family portraits after losing someone, and we later join them and look at the pictures from the view we will get in heaven (yes, I believe in heaven) we will see that they were there with us all along.  In our pictures.  Making faces.  Gestures.  Posing.  Laughing.  Some of them probably doing things not very fitting for heaven.  And others being playful and fun.   I suspect my aunt has grabbed Woody Hayes to join her in a picture with her kids standing in the now traditional way of spelling out O-H-I-O with their bodies.  Whatever their pose, I suspect they are joyful to be with us, surrounding us.  Knowing we can’t see them in the picture but hoping we feel them with us.

I know we aren’t there yet but for the love they have for us in their hearts.  But they know we’re coming.   And every time one of us gets there, I bet they take another picture.

I wonder if they hold pumpkins in place for us, until we get there.

26 thoughts on “The Family Portrait

  1. Today is the day twenty six years ago my Dad left the family portrait. It is still sad to look at all those he has missed. Lovely post. It is such early days for you all yet.


    • I’m sorry for your loss Tric, in 2 days it will be 15 years since the loss of my father. I empathize with you greatly.

      Such early days for certain, so much yet to do….saying goodbye is not a one time moment is it?


  2. Colleen, what a wonderful post. And it cause me to realize that there is only one picture of my entire immediate family, Mom,Dad,Me,Jim,John,Nancy and Ed. It was taken for Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversity. It is a great picture, and we are all smiling. Take care, Bill


  3. My family has never been big as such .. and I’m the last one standing .. sometimes I wonder how will miss me not being in the picture anymore …
    And I can’t recall that I ever have seen a family picture of my family .. strange really. Never a group photo has been taken. Wonder why.
    Great post, Colleen … loads of afterthoughts been created now.


  4. This is a lovely post, CM. I often think of my mother (who died in September 2009) when we take photos at family events. I’m sure she’s there. Probably making faces at us. 😀


  5. What a tear jerker, Chatter Master… So deep and philosophical…and with emotion. I am sure for when it is your time, you will be replaced by a green smoothie with a black belt tied around it… Or a crazily painted xylophone… But not one pumpkin… They will need a whole patch to emulate the happiness you brought so many… And my condolences once again to Husband…


  6. Wow, Colleen. You really know how to tug at my heart. This does it. I’ve had a lot of thoughts that run parallel to what you’re sharing here. We are all getting older, and every time I take those family photos I’m aware that one or two may not be with us next year at this time. And of course, age isn’t the only consideration. At any age, one can be gone from that portrait. Very sobering, but I, too, believe in heaven. I just wish we didn’t have to go through the separation part. 🙂 The idea of the pumpkin really made me laugh!


    • The separation part is the pained part isn’t it?

      I had actually been having these thoughts for the past year and I put them in to writing, and then my brother in law passed. And even in the wondering of it and knowing it will happen there is no way to prep yourself for that.

      I would put the pumpkin picture here but it is not mine to post. 🙂


  7. It is wonderful how things are that you have so much family buzz, Colleen. It’s just wonderful 🙂

    That day will come that someone is not in the portrait. But don’t think of it until it happens, I reckon. Enjoy those portraits 🙂


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