When You Can’t Remember Loss

James Bekenawei on Loss

The only thing that hurts more than a bad picture is a lost picture.

Most times, to cement the details of an event in my mind, I take pictures. A picture is a frozen moment from a string of moments. Behind every photo, there is a story; behind every story, there is a past. The emotions that the images evoke give photos meaning.

“James, all our efforts today were wasted. We lost all the pictures,” Tunde said. I had just finished dinner and wanted to settle for a movie marathon when he called. “A virus attack or something. It affected the camera’s memory card also, so we can’t get the raw pictures.”

Hours spent selecting, sorting, and editing wasted. An entire day’s shoot, gone with the wind. The story behind each photo forgotten before it is told.

I delved into photography by accident. I have always loved pictures and have an archive of exotic photos. One day I took a photo with a friend’s phone and he loved it. It dawned on me then that I could create photographs not just collect them; that I could freeze time for the future because memory dims and forgetting happens. A blunt pencil is better than the sharpest memory, a blurred camera lens than the clearest mind.

Women who lose their babies carry the pain forever. My mom has five of us, but she still talks about the one that didn’t make it. That loss hurts her even though it’s been more than thirty years. Losing photos is the closest I have come to how my mom feels. I hold on to the carcasses of damaged hard drives because letting them go means accepting that the memories stored in them are forever lost. Sometimes, I survey the hard drives and wonder, why. Why didn’t I back everything up? Why didn’t I upgrade my cloud storage when I could? But the hard drives do not answer, they stare back and dare me to cherish memories I no longer remember.

One of my greatest fears is losing my memory—of waking up and discovering I can’t remember anything—and that even my writings and photographs, which I employed to freeze moments, can’t help jumpstart my memory, because they are lost. I fear losing an extension of myself via lost memories and photos.

In my desire to freeze moments for Throwback Thursday, I often let things go unnoticed and become unmindful of the emotions the camera cannot capture. Behind every photo, there is a story. But of what use is a story if it does not evoke the emotions that bind us to it? The remedy I’ve found is in the poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling: [to] fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run. To enjoy the moment, rather than merely freezing it.

© James Bekenawei 2017

Bekenawei James Robert loves to tell pictures, snap stories, and to question answers. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter as @bekexjj. He blogs at 4unansweredprayers.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/sony-slt-a58-camera-sony-2033999/

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

21 thoughts on “When You Can’t Remember Loss

  1. I live in a constant fear of losing the photos on my phone– this journey of mine forever frozen on my 5in screen.
    Lately though, I’ve learned to enjoy the moment even while photographing. Sometimes I stop my hands from reaching for the camera and will my eyes to see instead, allowing my natural sensors come alive and experience the moment.

    I can’t imagine what it will feel like to lose one’s memory. But then I’m grateful for writing. At the very least if my mind fails me some day; if all my treasured photographed journey somehow disappear or become unrecognizable, the words I have written will not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have lost several pictures taken with my phone. It still hurts thinking about them.

      Nowadays I rarely take pictures with my phone. I would rather savor the moment and use someone else’s phone to take pictures ( that’s when they ask me to). But it’s a different ball game when I am holding a DSLR camera.
      I can shoot for hours without getting tired. Photography is a beautiful and painful passion. A wicked lover like writing.

      Like you, I am grateful for writing and photography. Few days ago, I read something I wrote about photography and writing in 2015. It rekindled the dying flame. And as for that fear of memory, you are not the only one.
      Maybe it’s because we are just a collection of our memories, so that’s why we fear loosing them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know what you mean about the fear of losing memories. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s.
    I love the correlation to loss photographs. And you’re right about the loss of a child lasting a lifetime. My older sister was stillborn. Mom still mentions her.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Important note. Losing photos can be painful n i’ve worked in psych ward enough to know that age related dementia or traumatic dementia is devasting . Counter point,Most but not all losses are bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading Alex.

      Yeah, not all losses are bad. Forgetting helps keeps us sane. I can’t imagine how tough life would be if we remember every details from when we were born. But still, losing hurts.


  4. Ugh. What a timely post. My colleague just lost years and years of photos that his wife took. He accidently formatted the 16G SD card. He took it in to our IT department, but they could only retrieve the photos from the first save, from before they even bought it ‘new’.

    I lost some photos from when I switched operating systems on my computer. Despite my saving and checking that I had it all. It can be crushing to lose precious memories. I, too, share your same fear of losing my memory…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading Lani, and for your comment too.

      Sure it can be crushing to loose memories, especially when you tried your best to keep them intact.
      And about the fear of losing memory, it’s consoling to see I’m not the only one. I guess what we have to do then is to be mindful and enjoy every moment as Kipling suggested.


  5. Great piece. I am a bit of a camera buff myself an I can really relate. I have lost pictures and I have lost opportunities. It is enough to make a grown man cry…Here is a quote I like from Susan Songtag’s essay On Photography: “Photographs are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Photographs are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.”

      I ❤❤❤ this quote.

      And yeah, losing photos can make a grown man cry. It hurts so bad.

      Thanks for reading and for the comment.
      PS: Timi did a lot of work for this piece to become great. So kudos to her.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Good post! Loved your last paragraph. So true!

    On occasion, I have had a feeling of “momentary dismay” when I realized that I hadn’t taken any photos of a “memorable event.” Now I realize that’s because I was having so much fun that I didn’t want to “stop the action” to go get the camera. Now, I often leave my camera at home, knowing that trying to capture every moment in a digital image separates me from the moment I’m trying to capture.

    My favorite photos of me are shots snapped by my parents when I was happily engaged in an activity, oblivious to the camera . . .

    If you’re interested, I did a while back which addresses photographs and memories:


    Photographs & Memories are so intertwined . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true. We cannot capture every moment no matter how hard we try. So why not just savor the moment?

      Like you, my favorite pictures are candid photos/stolen shots. Pictures taken when the person is unaware. I feel these are the real moments worth freezing compared to conscious pictures we take smiling at the camera.

      And Thanks for reading, I’ll check out your post.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Loss is a terrible thing. Losing one’s memory is the worst of all. It’s like you’ve lost your being, yourself and you are no longer who you were. Nothing can be more terrible. The good times, the bad times, those in between; all gone in the twinkle of an eye. Nothing beats loss. Some would rather go for death than have a memory loss. It is understandable.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Nothing beats loss…”
      I agree, but I try to counter that with a friends advice. “Why miss out onnlove for the fear of getting hurt.”
      Although he was referring to romantic relationship, we could as well apply it to other areas of our lives.

      Thanks for reading too Micheal.
      PS: I hope you shared the post? 😊😊

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Alas I am not the only one.

      I haven’t had close encounter with Alzheimer, but from what I’ve read, it’s indeed a cruel disease.
      People say we are what we are because of our collection of memories, so when one lose that especially because of a disease, it hurts more.

      Thanks for reading too Jill, and I hope our fears never become a reality.

      Liked by 3 people

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