When someone says, “Be present,” the present moment tends to run into the next present moment and into the next until becoming a blur of moments turning into a day, a week, a month…years. Then we wake up one day and ask, “Where did it all go?”
Well, thank the Lord for the still-frame of the camera. That photograph you stumble upon of the moments years later to remind you. You were present at that moment! The memories around that still-frame moment start to form and suddenly you are time-warped to an event that was formed by many more moments. You had forgotten you were present in at that time.
In the year 2019 I went through tons of old photos. I mean tubs of old photos. I wasn’t swiping the phone to see pictures, I was not looking at the computer downloads, but real hold-in-your-hands photos. I can remember, as I am sure any of you born in the fifties like me can, the camera. Pictures were captured in this handheld box and when the film was all used up, it was pulled out in a neat little roll and taken to a shop that specialized in developing all your precious moments. You did not have the luxury of immediately looking at the film to make sure you got the shot you wanted. You had to wait. Sometimes you had to wait days to see your masterpieces or mess-ups. There was no recreating those moments with digital magic. Either the “Kodak moment” was preserved or lost, and your control ended with the click of the camera.
All my personal remembrances, while going through my tubs, made me ponder all of you in the fire service. Memories of structure fires, scenes, events, vehicle wrecks, years of service blurred into the next crisis, the next shift, the next need, the next save, and the next loss. Forgotten or blurred by time, until the memory gets triggered by a picture or story. All those moments were lived by someone being present in them.
With 2019 came several retirement gatherings. Many had old photographs and mementos of life being recognized. Many shared stories that one picture would stir up and then evolve, with much input from the ones who had also been present in that moment in time. The stories remind us of the past that was present for others. Even if we didn’t live those moments, we got to appreciate the events and the effects they had on our future moments.
Memorabilia is tangible articles and objects that can be shared with the ones that come after us. So, in the year 2020 pull out those cameras, phones, ipads, whatever, and catch the present moments in still frame. So that one moment down the road of moments, you can pause, hold them in your sight, swipe the phone gallery to witness, through the blurring of time that you lived, you played, you worked, you laughed, you cried, you helped, you saved. The moments of clarity that you were present without even trying to master the task of being present.
Here is to the memorial in Kingdom City that is evolving to hold the Missouri Fire Service memorabilia and hold-in-your-hand photographs. All of us will get the benefit of seeing, hearing and learning how the past has affected our present, and eventually our futures, in the world of firefighters.
Cheers to 2020!