Photographs and Memories

Credit: Michael Feldstein

Photographs and memories
All that I have are these
To remember you

–Jim Croce 

I hate taking photographs.  I don’t photograph particularly well, and when I’m asked to take a photo, it’s usually out of focus or otherwise not very attractive. Back in the days before we could quickly snap photos with our phones and easily yield a beautiful image, I’d often find that I would cut the heads off folks on the pictures I took with my Kodak instant camera once they were developed!

It’s ironic that our daughter Tova, of blessed memory, was such a good photographer. She certainly didn’t inherit that gene from me!   She loved taking photos – of people … of places … of nature.  And she was always eager to share her photos with others.

When our family members were together for Rosh haShana or Pesach, Tova would make sure to take a family photo to mark the occasion.  Trips with her friends were always captured with a photo of a smiling Tova, next to the appropriate background to clearly identify the location.  Her legendary sunrise and sunset photos that she posted on social media were magnificent.

I always balked when Tova tried to convince me to take yet another photo of us together, but in the end, I relented because I knew it was important to her.

It turned out Tova was much wiser than I was when it came to all the photos she took.  Although we lost our precious daughter much too early, we now have a plethora of photos to remind us of Tova.  I am very grateful for that  — and now better appreciate what she did.

After she passed away, our niece thoughtfully made prints of some of the best photos of Tova for our shiva house.  It wasn’t difficult … she had a sizable inventory of photos from which to choose, which Tova had sent to her over the years.

Those who frequent Facebook know that the social media giant will often display a photo taken exactly a year or two or three earlier, to remind you of the events and the people from your past life and encourage you to reshare it with your friends.  Thankfully Tova’s photos regularly pop up in my news feed now – and they are a wonderful reminder of our daughter and how special she was.  I am deeply appreciative of all the different photos that I’ve been able to review from Tova’s life.

Tova also created all sorts of interesting items that incorporated her photos, and there are some wonderful relics of hers that we need to sort through. Her belongings are still in our basement, but I know once we start going through her possessions, we will find some unique and interesting photographic related products.

Sometimes when I particularly miss Tova, I scroll through the photos of her on my own phone, and while I will probably shed some tears doing this, her contagious smile always cheers me up … and I feel very fortunate that I have the photos close to me to remind me of her.

Sometimes words can be inadequate; fortunately, we have photographs which often can put things back into focus for us.  There is a reality that is often so subtle in good photos that they become more real than reality.

Photography is a wonderful way of feeling and connecting.  What you capture in a photo is captured forever.  It remembers many of the small things that you would otherwise end up forgetting.

I’m sure there are photos that you have looked at a long time ago, but the image is clearly visible in your memory.  The iconic photo of the firemen raising the American flag at Ground Zefo. The sailor kissing a woman on V-J Day in Times Square.  The young Vietnamese children running through the streets after a napalm attack.  The famous flag raising photo at Iwo Jima.  The three soldiers at the Kotel after it was claimed by Israel in the Six Day War.  These images are seared in my memory.  I’m sure they are ingrained in yours, too, if you are around my age.

Every day I look at the photos of our daughter Tova displayed on our coffee table.  Every time I open my phone, I see a screenshot of Tova.  I laugh.  I cry.  I smile.  We don’t have Tova in our lives anymore.  Thankfully she left us lots of photos by which we can remember her.

Photographs and memories
All the love you gave to me
Somehow it just can’t be true
That’s all I’ve left of you

–Jim Croce

About the Author
Michael Feldstein, who lives in Stamford, CT, is the author of "Meet Me in the Middle," a collection of essays on contemporary Jewish life. His articles and letters have appeared in The Jewish Link, The Jewish Week, The Forward, and The Jewish Press. He can be reached at
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