Memories by Millions

These are the pictures shared by millions. Yet they are ours.

Tonight as I write what is just another of hundreds of journal entries I’ve posted, yet another video is posted to youtube in honor of Elena. By now there’s too many to count, some in English, many more in languages I will never speak. Still the message is universal – and timeless.

I can’t tell you how odd it is to see your personal life shared by millions. If I had my choice, it probably never would. Still, in the end I figure that this is more of a predestined mission than it is of one father’s will. I look at the pictures as if they are of some other child – a distant friend and a forgotten memory – only to realize it is my daughter and the picture I took trying to capture just one more moment. Sometimes I barely remember the photograph, wondering instead who had been following us on that particular day. Later I’ll remember as I walk the long hall to our bedroom and pass by the very same picture in the early hours of the morning.

Elena’s notes are different. These are personal. These are what I remember most. And in many ways they are the messages that bring us joy. Even four years later I write at a computer next to a box of tissues that barely lasts more than a week. It’s because of the pictures. Still, it’s the notes that make me smile and remember. And in the end, I guess that’s what Elena intended.

People often ask us how a six-year-old girl came to write notes of love. Some do it out of skepticism. Others in an honest desire to understand. In the end, I don’t understand both. How could she not? This is the way we’ve always been – trading notes between us confirming what we felt in our hearts. It started with Elena’s first trip to preschool. Brooke would pack her lunch and I would decorate the paper bag, each day a different message and each day a different picture. Still, one message was constant – “I love you. Mom and Dad.”

I’ll always remember Elena’s notes more than I will ever remember the pictures. This is because this is how she intended it to be. And today with Gracie we continue to write new notes. All I have to do it look on the whiteboard in my office to see the proof. There in red lettered and accented by a heart she wrote “I love you Dad.” It will remain as long as it can, with my business plans and diagrams sculpted around it, for it is the most important message I could ever have. No expansion, statistic or financial number means quite as much or ever will.

In the end, we remember our loved ones in precisely the manner they intended – not by what we envision or determine. Elena was no different. And for eternity, I will remember her from her notes. Her notes of love. The pictures belong to everyone else.

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