Photo Finish

7 Jan

Letterbalm Pile of PhotosDear LetterBalm: In preparation for moving into a retirement community, I’m downsizing and working with an organizer. We came across a cache of old photos of friends and family going back decades. Many of the people in the pictures have passed away, some of them in recent years. I’d like to get the photos to the right people, but I’m concerned that they might stir up sad or bad memories. What should I do? And, what should I say when I send the photos along?

–Amateur Archivist 

What a noble and generous instinct! Ms. L.B. is a devotee of all kinds of photos because it’s delightful to look through actual ones, pause and touch them. And, digital photos are amusing and do-it-yourself convenient. Photos are powerful talismans of times past and present. But you’ve got to admit that most people have photos scattered everywhere, whether in physical piles or virtual compendiums. Collating all this is a herculean task, not to mention that younger folks don’t hold the same attachment to hard-copy albums. Do your best to sort the photos and mail them to the appropriate parties with a short note. Don’t be concerned that you’ll provoke bad or sad emotions; most recipients will be touched by your gesture. Write something like this:

Dear Family/Friend,

[As you know] I’m planning to move to a retirement community soon, and I’m paring down my possessions. I came across these photos, which evoked such lovely memories. I thought you’d like to have them because they represent happy times. They may bring a few tears, but I can’t help thinking they’ll bring smiles, too. I hope you agree.

Love/Fondly/As ever,

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