Restoring a Life

Image (6)My current client’s father is pictured here with his two brothers. The photo was taken in about 1900. When we tried to place it in his story, the client said, “If you can’t brighten it up, leave it out.”

I’m taking a course in Photoshop to learn how to restore treasures like these to their former glory. That’s what we do in writing about lives. We coax memories from the shadows, brush off their dust and clarify convictions that have deteriorated from neglect or just the passage of time.

Telling a life story involves restoring all the photos of the past; even those that were never taken. Our pictures will never look exactly the same, just as we’ve never felt the same way twice. Experiences change us, and retelling them traces and illustrates who we’ve become. The process of remembering reveals more details. The exercise of looking back for perspective makes the past—its pains as well as its joys—important again.

When I work with my clients, I am helping them to reexamine their lives. Together, we decide what to explore and how to express, in words and pictures, its essence. We articulate an honest, intimate picture that is both cleansing to the teller and clear to future generations. We “brighten up” a life so that all may see it better.

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