United Church of Christ

Into the Mystic: Photographs and Memories

A picture can inspire goodness. Give God thanks for this cherished gift.

One of my favorite lines from a songwriter comes from Jackson Browne’s “Fountains of Sorrow.” The opening line reads “looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer,” and then that line is completed with this stunningly brilliant turn of phrase: “I was taken by a photograph of you.”

What a line: I was taken by a photograph of you.

Has that ever happened to you?

Have you seen a photograph, perhaps of a loved one, that alters your mood and mindset? Maybe it takes your breath away. Maybe it causes you to smile broadly. Maybe it is of a time and place that was special, but which you had forgotten about for years.

Of late, I have been going through boxes and boxes of old family pictures. Some go back more than 100 years. Others are of my childhood. They show me with siblings whose childhood poses and faces were blurred in the hazy fog of my aging memory. Many brought smiles. Some brought tears.

There were pictures of my now four-and-a-half year deceased father, most of which I had seen many times but all of which tugged at heartstrings.

There were pictures of me and my spouse of 36 years when we were dating. Our youth and her beauty brought back those feelings of early infatuation before it would become the love upon which you can build a family and a lifetime together.

There were pictures of my mother as a young woman. Her own beauty escaped me as a child but seeing her now through the lens of my own adulthood I could see what a pretty young woman she was.

There were pictures of my children from the moment of birth through the playfulness of being a toddler through the awkward teenage years and into adulthood.

There were pictures of uncles and aunts dimly remembered; and grandparents loved but long gone.

Jim Croce had his own song about this called “Photographs and Memories.” It is a forlorn tune about a lost love for whom all that remains are the photographs and the memories.

These are beloved keepsakes, and we all cherish them.

My mom once instructed us as children: if there is a fire in the house, grab the photo albums and get out of the house immediately.

One pathway to spiritual healing, especially in times like this when there is so much uncertainly, chaos, and grief to process, is simply to hold a picture of a loved one long gone, or of a loved one still here but whom the years have altered. Let that photo take you to another time and place – even if for a short while. Hold it. Treasure it and the feelings and memories it inspires.

And be sure and give God thanks for this cherished gift.

A picture can alter a mood.

A picture can conjure a memory.

A picture can inspire goodness.

Let us all relish our photographs and memories. May we all have that moment when we are taken by a photograph. And may all whom we have known and loved linger long in our hearts and minds and memories through the tokens we cherish that bring them back to us on this, our journey Into the Mystic.


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