On Saturday afternoon my world came crashing down. My aunt June passed away completely unexpectedly. She left behind my mum – her sister – and three other siblings as well as her nieces and nephew. She was the centre of the family and life won’t be the same without her. She was eccentric, a constant traveller and in the 60s she made the front page of a British newspaper for brazenly walking into a bank in Spain wearing a swimming costume. She was funny, such a chatterbox that my mum would have to ignore her phone calls until she had a good hour to spare, and she always got the last roast potato at Christmas (despite her “offers” for everyone else to take it). Her and my uncle were married 39 years and were soulmates. He was so lucky to have such a strong marriage. And so unfortunate to have it taken away so unexpectedly. June had been hiding her cancer for 12 years, and we only found out last week. Some may say this was unfair, but actually it was so June. She wanted to be in control of her life and she didn’t want to be treated differently. Which is fantastic. And she was her eccentric self right up until the end, wearing ribbons in her hair, bossing nurses about and being cheered on by her fellow hospital roommates.
The very first thing I did when I found out the news was search through my computer for photos I’d taken of my family and June. When I couldn’t find any in the first few minutes I felt sick at the thought that I might have accidentally deleted them. Eventually of course I found them and immediately felt a rush of happiness: I had something left of her to hold on to and cherish.
But imagine if June had seen those photos and said “I don’t like the way I look in those photos/my nose looks big/I look fat/I have a spot/etc please delete them” ? (For the record, June would never have said anything like that) But I would have nothing to remember her by. Those photos aren’t for her, they’re for me, for my mum, my uncle, my brother, my aunts, uncles and cousins and her friends. All we care about is that we have those photos and that she looks like June in them.
So next time you see a photo of yourself and don’t like the way you look, imagine it was the only photo your loved ones had to remember you by. It won’t be quite so easy to delete it.