We have dozens of photographs of Jake around our house, from all different stages of his life. Prior to last December, they ranged from him and his first birthday cake, through 2 year old “Batman” to “Chef Jake” about 13 or 14. In these, Jake is usually smiling and engaged in some activity. I have been looking at them every day for years. They don’t have much power over me any more. We have also put up several from later in his life, and I have been going through many pictures taken of him and by him lately. These later images have a tremendous power to arouse strong emotions, from delight to the deepest despair. Especially those taken in the last few months.
The earlier photos are from a time that he lived to completion. The pictures of his childhood reveal the happy, radiant kid he was, and that period of his life progressed naturally. He grew up, interests changed, he went through the ‘developmental stages’ and these photos show this. That Jake grew older and matured, and in some way he no longer existed, other than in our memory and in those photographs. He progressed through his life and arrived at the young man who passed away just a few weeks ago. Even the photos of him as a teenager I discovered recently, while poignant and able to bring me to tears, don’t quite have the grip on my psyche that the more recent ones do.
The more recent images, those of us on the golf course, his visit over last Thanksgiving/Hanukkah, pictures of him at work, in the kitchen, his activities during the last six months, are immensely powerful. Perhaps because they portray the person who actually was. The Jake of just a few weeks ago. He is no longer the exuberant, bubbly child, but a calmer and more deliberate person, and it shows in the photos. His sense of humor still shines through, his gift for the ridiculous evident in some of the commentary of his Facebook posts, that Jake will never change.
There is tragedy in these photographs. They evoke such sadness. The Jake in the older photos grew into someone else, and we have pictures of that person too. The Jake in the newer ones will never grow into anyone else, these photos are all there is. This is the beautiful boy we miss so terribly. The 24 year old standing at the beginning of a life he will never live. We will not have any wedding pictures, pictures of our grandchildren growing through the stages of their lives to put on the piano alongside those of child Jake. We only have the ‘might have beens’, the ‘should haves’ and the ‘what ifs’. I look at these pictures, often with tears dripping down my face, and ask the same questions over and over. Questions for which there will never be answers.