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Local View: The moments before us are the ones to cherish

Jenni Wolfe

"Click." Imagine that familiar sound followed by a flash illuminating the moments of our lives. Through the lens you can zoom in or out, creating snapshots to cherish forever moments such as births, weddings, triumphs, and journeys to places near and far.

No matter how far you zoom in, though, you can never quite capture the intimacy of frozen moments in time that are personal just to you.

With the recent sudden passing of Karen, a best friend, followed by a trip to Europe for my 25th wedding anniversary, I have been reflecting on these snapshots in time.

Before I left for my journey, my dining room table was laden with mementos, scrapbooks, and pictures. I pored over these photos of recent times with my friend and those bent, yellowed, faded pictures from years gone by. The pictures brought tears of joy recalling fun escapades and sadness for what would never come to be. As I left for my cruise on the Danube, I was determined to be present for all the moments of my journey to honor Karen and the sacredness of life.

Passau, Vienna, and Budapest all brought grandeur and beauty sprinkled with sounds and smells, each city better than the last. My fellow shipmates were zooming in and zooming out, creating snapshots, videos, and selfies to share. Frequently the pictures seemed more important than what was on the other side of the lens.

Watching that, I reflected back on my last intimate conversation with Karen, days before her passing. Our talk was interwoven with celebrations and worries we had with work, family, and friends. We talked of projects, including new gardens and hand-sewn bags. As we parted, the air was filled with hope, promise, and creativity. Our conversation was as familiar as a threadbare favorite quilt on a cold, snowy day. We hugged, said goodbye, and made plans for a trip up the North Shore in the fall.

I have no picture of this last conversation, yet it came to me as clearly as the photos strewn on my dining-room table back home. Our conversation was as vivid as my wedding day, the birth of my children, and holding the hand of a friend as she died years before. No snapshot can capture these sacred moments of life and death. The camera zoom could never travel that far into the heart and soul. There is not one photo in my heaps of scrapbooks that can capture what was in my heart at these moments: the love, the fear, the echoes of first breaths and last.

On my cruise, I wanted to shout from the deck to my fellow shipmates, "Look up from your cameras and live in this moment!"

Social-media updates, photos, and snap chats are becoming more important than being present.

While touring ornate churches and overlooking vistas in Austria, tourists exclaimed, "A photo will never be able to capture this beauty," and they were right. There is a reason few pictures are taken at funerals, during church services, or in places believed to be sacred.

I invite everyone to put down their handmade lenses and use the lenses of their own eyes to capture memories. And, as you look through those lenses, pause for a moment, as if taking a picture, so you may capture the nuances of a face, the twinkle of an eye, and the sound of laughter from deep within.

The moment before you is the most sacred — followed by the one after and the one after that. Take it all in, breathe deeply, and open your heart and soul to the moment that is right in front of you, as it will never come this way again.

Jenni Wolfe of Duluth is an elementary school teacher in the Superior school district.