The Gift of Impermanence

Learning the importance of letting go and living in the present moment

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Everyday on the way to the kid’s school we used to pass a big, red barn. Boy, did I love the sight of that barn. Every morning as we drove up the hill, with the blue sky and fluffy clouds in the background, I’d think, “Man I have got to get a photo of that barn.” But we were always running late, or my phone was too full, and I just never did. And then one day, on the way to school, a swarm of workers surrounded the barn, and by the next morning, the barn was gone. Gone.

Next year my son will be gone — gone off to college. And two years after that, my daughter will follow suit. The other day my son and our dog, Ed were curled up on the couch — it was a magical moment — “Please let me take picture,” I asked, and surprisingly he said OK. But once again the screen on my phone was black with the message Cannot Take Photo…

So for the past week I’ve made a concerted effort to “de-clutter” all the photos on my phone and computer. My phone is so full, it can’t take new photos or even receive voicemail. And my computer, well let’s just say that if my computer wore pants, it would be up several sizes. Both my phone and my computer are backed up; so all I really need to do is delete the 5,147 photos on my phone and the 31,498 photos on my computer. But I worry. What if the backup on the external hard-drive in the fireproof box didn’t really back up all those photos? And what if the second backup external hard-drive in the other fireproof box didn’t work? And what if all those backup discs with the photos melt in some unexpected New Hampshire heat wave?

Image courtesy of Unsplash

It would be a disaster.

Those photos are of my kids. My kids in Florida visiting my parents. My kids blowing out their birthday candles. My kids picking apples and petting goats, and studying the dinosaurs at the science museum and swinging on the swings at the park and running down soccer fields and canoeing on lakes and playing dress-up with our much-missed English Mastiff, Meg.

Those photos are our life.

Occasionally my 16-year-old daughter shows me a photo she’s posted on Snapchat. “That’s so cute,” I say. “Save it. Save it.” But she usually just shrugs and casually says, “It’s gone.” Gone. An adorable photo. A precious moment in time. A special memory. Gone. Just like that.

I think of those monks who travel with the Dalai Lama. The monks who spend days bent on their hands and knees creating a beautiful, intricate mandala out of sand. And when the Dalai Lama finally arrives to see their work, he gazes upon their creation and with one sweep of his arm, wipes the entire thing away. God, almighty, I hope someone at least snapped a photo.

I worry that I didn’t take enough photos of my kids when they were little. Now at 16 and 18 they hardly ever let me take their photos and my whole body aches when I think of all those lost moments I failed to capture. I’ll never get them back again.

And then it hits me. This isn’t really a fear of losing the photos. It’s a fear of losing the kids — those beautiful little kids who giggled and played hide-and-seek and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and needed their Mommy.

And with that clarity, I can now see that my life is so cluttered trying to hold on to the past, I’m not making room for the Magic in my life. The magic of seeing my boy leave home and blossom into the man he is meant to become. The magic of witnessing my daughter travel to exotic lands and share her deep desire to help others. And the magic of me rediscovering myself, and remembering why my husband and I fell in love.

So it seems it’s time to let go. Time to trust and know that my memories are safe and that they always have been, for they are etched on my soul and stored in the fireproof box of my heart. And with that, I know what I must to do.

Ask my daughter to delete the photos for me.

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