Jeannie Albers




Uncle Mike


Life is brief… as if there weren’t enough reminders of that these days.  I don’t know how to put into words what that weekend was like, this past June, after my uncle left.  Seldom can I accurately write what is felt; perhaps why I carry a camera, and when people ask me what kind of photography I do, this is this best answer I can offer: I photograph life.

The moon was brighter than I have ever seen.  My shadow was so defined, it might as well have been midday, and I felt like a Lost Boy as I danced around with her inky figure.   Everyone quietly sauntered back to the beach house as a million thoughts raced through my mind...  

... a hundred memories... 

... at least a dozen questions.  

Uncle Mike returned to his favorite place on earth: the ocean. The stars were arguably brighter, the wind picked up... and without a doubt, the "beginning and the end" was with us.  Only a few times in my life, can I remember actually seeing/feeling glory like that.


An hour or so earlier, the younger cousins splashed ankle deep in the ocean as our family made their way down to the shore.  The memorial service that afternoon was sobering, difficult, but it didn’t feel real, not yet.  We circled together, barefooted in the sand as the sky darkened; we told our stories and said our nice things about him.  Then my two Aunts (his older sisters), wrapped their arms around each other and carried his ashes into the water.  By now it was dusk, and most of the color spectrum retired, leaving only blue hues to fill the scene.  Dad followed closely behind his sisters, and I wondered why Grandpa wasn’t going with them.  I wondered also what it would be like for him to have lost a wife, and now a son.

Grandpa changed his mind at the last minute, and hurried to join his children for the last time they would all be together in this age.  Brother, sisters, and father hugged and wept while the waves carried Mike and tears away, and those of us on the shore began to cry. 

There are some partings that are joyous—I’ve been to those memorials, how sweet they are.  But I doubt anyone knows how to feel when a goodbye is like this one.  I still don’t.  Questions, guilt, could haves-should haves.  I think it may be weird to share photographs of a sad time, rather than a happy one.  They exist simultaneously in the world, though.  Sometimes it’s just nice to be human and say, “hey, this is real life… it’s not all cakes and weddings and birthdays and cool stuff and places”.  Sometimes it’s like this: sorrow, mingled with love, mingled with the joy of still having loved ones to tell, “I love you”, and sit around a beach house laughing and cooking dinner together.  This is how I honor moments.  Love you, Uncle Mike.