The following was sent to me by fellow grieving dad and friend Steven Stuart.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  I can relate with all of these points on some level.  I think what we have been through makes us stop and assess our lives; where we have been, where we are and where we are going.
96 Photographs
It dawned on me the other day…we adults measure life in such silly ways sometimes. We worry about trivial stuff like keeping up with the “Joneses”, climbing the corporate ladder in order to better support a family we wind up seeing less and less, and just trying to always be number one in everything we do, except in our own lives. We always seem to forget that if we do not take care of ourselves properly, we will never be number one in anything or with anyone because we have neglected ourselves.
It also dawned on me that the simplest things are often the most important. I was looking at pictures of my son Colin that my wife asked me to print. There were 12 to choose from to frame and put around the house, and I thought…”how many pictures of Colin do we actually have, and I counted 96. That moment, two things hit me…we ONLY have 96 pictures of Colin, and we HAVE 96 pictures of Colin. It was just that measuring a life in less than 100 pictures made me realize that I needed to adjust how I measured my life and where I want to go with it from this day forward, and that is in the most positive direction I can.
Below is some food for thought…hopefully #6 will resonant more than the other 5 combined.
1. Chronological Age
The most common measurement of life is chronological age, and people can become famous simply by living long enough.
2. Material Wealth
Although not many will openly admit to this, many people measure success by the size of their house, their car, their paychecks, and their bank accounts.
3. Achievements
There are many whose lives were brief and yet made a huge impact on the world and the world remembers them for who they were and what they did.
4. Legacy
Some homes are filled with family photographs as a powerful reminder that you have created a family. For some, this is their life work – to raise a child, to leave behind a family when you’re gone. When you speak to the dying, you know that they find great comfort in knowing that although they will soon be no more, they have left something behind that will outlive them.
5. Personal Creed
You can decide your own measure of success in a personal creed and live by this every day of your life. I strongly recommend this as we are all created different and are on earth to fulfill our individual purpose. Your life has a meaning that no other life has, and you alone can decide what living well means for you.
6. Transcend Measurement
There are two ways to think about life – as an obligation, or as pure gift. If you regard life as an obligation, like a job where you are put in a certain position to perform a certain function, you will need to measure how well you are performing.
Life as pure gift does not need to be measured at all. It just is. You just are. You could do nothing with your life and it would still mean something, because you existed and that is good enough. In philosophical terms, existence is not a means but an end in itself. “I AM” is the only meaning there is.
Of course, one of life’s paradoxes is that it can be a bit of both. It is a gift, but we also want to use this gift in a meaningful way. Each day you wake up and find yourself alive is a gift, but you can also choose to make that day count. Whatever measure you choose, live well, and your life, and the life of your child, will mean something.

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User Comments ( 6 )

  • I too cherish the photos I have on my son Noah. We knew he had already passed inside my wife so the hospital arranged for a photographer who specializes in these types of photos. I was a little hesitate at first, because I thought it was kind of weird to take photos during such a horrible time. I can say today that I have about 110 black and white photos of my beautiful little boy. I have them printed out and I also keep them on my computer and a flash drive I keep in a lock box at the bank in case something happens to them at home. It’s don’t look at them every day and we have a couple of them up at home, but it gives me comfort knowing I have those photos.

    I also have one photo that was taken by my wife and color of me holding little baby Noah with a smile on my face. A warm, caring, loving smile of a proud father. I love this photo. I wish I would have had more time with him to create more memories and photos, but that isn’t the case so I will hold on to what I have.

  • Jeremy Willis

    Shortly after I posted this a friend of mines father emailed me 5 pictures I had never seen before of our Mattie from a get together we had last year. I am struggling to find any hope in any kind of religion, but I do have a pleasant coincident from time to time that makes my mind wander.

  • Jeremy Willis

    We get so excited when we find a “new” picture of Mattie we forgot we had on one of our 5 devices, or find a relative that had some photos on their memory card. It brings on painful anxiety to think the pictures we have is all we will ever have. Luckily I was fortunate to be a stay at home dad to her most of her short time here with us, and every day I took a picture to send to my wife at work. We are so thankful that little idea popped into my head one day and I stuck with it. Someday I hope to spend more time with her home videos, it is just so difficult still for me to experience moving pictures of her and I, or her and her sister within these very walls I still exist in everyday.

  • John Wolfe

    Wow, a very powerful statement, Steven. I read it and re-read it many times over before it finally sunk in that you’re telling me to use my loss in a constructive way. If for nothing else than improving the way I live my life and honor my daughter’s death by doing so, and I couldn’t agree with you more.

    • Steven Stuart


      The only thing we have left is the memory of our children and the best way to keep it alive and strong is to live in a way that honors them and shows how much we really love them. They deserve nothing less.


  • Fabulous post by Steven, thanks for sharing.
    The photo thing for me really hit home, when we lose a child what we have of them in things, ie photos etc is what we have, there will be no more. Then what a great opening into the post which is measuring our life.
    When we have experienced great loss, the insignificance of little things that many people take store by becomes irrelevant, we delve deeper into the core of who we are and what life means.
    For me, losing my son, living my life now in a meaningful way is something I do for myself, for others but also for him. I am attributing great meaning to great loss and living well as a result.