The photos I didn’t take…

photos I did not takeDown at the beach, as the sun begins to set, the photography begins in earnest. Romantic couples and lovely families – bedecked in coordinated clothing — are stalked by professional photographers with mammoth cameras. You can hear commands such as “OK, Mom and Dad, get close together. Kids, do you know how to ‘Ring Around the Rosie’? OK. Join hands in a circle and run around Mom and Dad as fast as you can.”

Click, click, click. The sand, the surf, the sunset make a perfect backdrop to those perfect poses.

Perhaps if I considered myself more photogenic, I might be more inclined to hire a photographer to create beautiful images for my family. When my children were young, we did the occasional Olan Mills professional studio shot, but those captured images, not reality. I look at those old photos and note how we appear – how young we look or how hideous those styles of hair, glasses, and clothing were way back when. I don’t remember an experience or a special moment in a relationship.

My oldest son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law recently got engaged at a beautiful park. My son had gotten on one knee, nervously extending both a ring and a question, before a “Yes!” made his girlfriend his fiancé.  A passing photographer, who had just happened upon the couple, approached them, saying she had captured the whole thing on her camera and would happily email the photos. That is life well photographed.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often.

As I reflected on my recent beach vacation with my husband, I realized I had more memories than photos. No professional photographer chanced upon our moments of life to offer megapixels of memories. I shot the obligatory sunsets and captured a few of my husband’s finer moments – wading with the stingrays, enjoying dinner with his sister, and peeling after too many days without sunscreen.

But it was what I hadn’t shot that most touched my heart. It was what I couldn’t capture in photos that I most want to remember or don’t think I can ever forget.

I might have enjoyed capturing my face the moment I felt a stingray scurry out from under my foot, my urgent shuffling toward the beach as I fled the spot, or my fearful vigil on the beach as I watched for other stingrays while my husband defiantly remained  in the water.

But what I really would have liked to capture would have been that moment I really grasped how much my husband loved and cared about me.

That man is generally teasing me – and my rational fear of stingrays made great fodder for his jabs. But his persistent comments didn’t sway me from the shore; his insistence on finding a solution to the stingray problem tormented rather than relieved me. But when he put the plan into action, I saw love behind it all.

He ventured into the water first, scouting for stingrays. Then he returned to the shore, and he had me follow him, holding onto his sides, while he carried a raft and shuffled his feet dramatically in the sandy bottom. He instructed me to walk closely behind him in his footsteps. I did. Within mere inches. Safely. It was like a dance train of two – minus the music. When we reached deeper water, he helped me onto the raft, out of danger of the stingrays that might have buried themselves below, and we ventured out into the clear, deep water where swimming was pure joy. When we had had enough, we swam toward the shore. My husband then bravely stepped onto the sandy bottom, and I walked in his steps, his shuffling steps, “dance train”-style, until we were out of the water.

Did we look goofy? Was I embarrassed to be so fearful that it took my ingenious and brave husband’s act to get me back into the water?

Yes and yes.

Would a photo of our “dance train” be the highlight of a professional photographer’s collection?

Probably not.

But that photo I didn’t take says “love” to me as no photogenic pose before sand, surf, and sunset ever could. And that is the best backdrop of all.


Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13


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