Lessons of Loss


This summer I went on vacation in Maine; the vacation was designed to provide my partner with ample opportunity to engage in her photography hobby. We rented a cabin between the two major parts of Acadia National Park: Mount Desert Island, which includes Bar Harbor, and the Schoodic Peninsula, which apparently is little known even to dyed-in-the-wool Mainers. I guess you have to be from Downeast (Hancock or Washington County) to be familiar with Schoodic.

I have a special attachment to Schoodic as well as the more popular portions of Acadia. I, too, enjoy doing photography and I brought along the big, fancy digital camera that I recently inherited from my Dad as well as the pocket-sized digital camera I bought during seminary. When the batteries in one camera would run low, I’d switch to the other; therefore the photographic record of my vacation resided in two memory cards.

When I got back home from Maine, I started the process of archiving my vacation photos by posting them on-line. I got the ones from my little camera uploaded and moved on to the second memory card. Things seemed to be going well at first; then the program stalled and froze up. Uh-oh! What’s going on?

Well, to make a long story short, the card got corrupted and I couldn’t see any of my pictures on that card. Not only my photos from Vacationland, but also everything I had taken since I brought Dad’s camera back with me in January. And the pictures that he’d taken that were still on the card.

I tried to download a recovery program and do it myself, but that didn’t result in anything except some empty folders; the corrupted file was still sitting on the disk.

I took the disk, the camera and my computer to a big photo store and agreed to the price they charge for recovery process, which makes no guarantee and costs a lot. They called several days later and said that they had been successful at recovering my photos. But when I got the CD and memory card home and put them in my computer, I wasn’t able to open anything except for a photo that was not mine at all. And the corrupted file was still there on the SD card as plain as day. I went back and talked to one of the managers, and he promised to run the recovery again and get something for me; they refunded the entire amount I had been charged initially.

This time the photo store was successful with the recovery. Except there was on problem: while the photos they recovered were clearly ones that my father had taken, they weren’t anything I had seen before. They could only be pictures that he had deleted from the card in the past. I still had none of my own pictures and two very big holes in the week’s vacation in Maine: our day at Schoodic Point and the ranger-led boat trip we took to Baker’s Island, also part of Acadia NP. I was feeling frustrated and disappointed. I had taken some really good pictures.

My partner made another trip to the photo store and was good enough to pick the brain of the sales person she was working with about the recovery of digital photos from memory cards. She reported to me that evening that there wasn’t anything more that could be done and told me about the best practices for working with digital photos.

At this point I had to recognize that the photos were gone for good. Fortunately, I had already archived Dad’s pictures that had been on that memory card. And I spent the next day retrieving what I could of the earlier part of the year from where I had uploaded my pictures on-line. But the 10th and the 14th of August were lost. I had to accept that as reality. A fact of life.

That’s when it occurred to me that this experience, although not as heart-breaking as the death of a loved one or traumatic as the loss of a home due to fire or flood, was an apt metaphor for the process of grieving our losses.

At first, there is the shock and dismay of being suddenly confronted with the loss. Next, we tend to do everything we can to retrieve what is lost. When that doesn’t result in a restoration or recovery of the lost person or object, we experience frustration, anger, and related feelings of non-acceptance. Eventually, though, we have to accept the reality of the loss and grasp the universal of non-permanence. Nothing physical lasts forever. What does last are our human memories of the experiences, the lessons we learn along the way in our life’s journey, and the love we have felt for the people who have touched us in our hearts and souls.

May you be blessed with an abundance of experiences to remember, teachings of the spirit, and the love of the Universe.

~ Charlotte

Posted in Charlotte