Flasback: Christmas Eve dinner [Noche Buena], I toted around my new camera like a newborn baby. (Slight exaggeration, but let's roll with it.) I was excited for a few reasons. 1) this camera took video, and 2) I now had a lens that upped my photog-game. This basically means that, while there are very talented people who take photos, I could now pose more successfully as one of them, due to the equipment I was using.
So that December 24th—also the last time I saw Abuela Carmita outside of a hospital room—as soon as my little-old-lady love walked in, I asked to take her portrait. I don't know why, but there was a very clear whisper in my head saying, "capture this". But Abuela and Abuelo Lilo had arrived late with the congre and everyone moved quickly; hungry Cubans are no joke. So I told her we could wait. Our family ate, Abuelo told stories, Octavio ranted, Frankie laughed; Abuela Carmita was quiet, as she didn't feel well.
And I never took the photograph.
The thought haunted me a bit. Does the lack of capturing something, negate the thing itself? Does "missing a chance", mean I missed the feeling/person/moment? Were the wrinkles in Abuela's face, the quiet spark in her eyes, the calm line of her lips that would (if you were lucky) pull back like the chuckle of a bubblegum sunrise, invalidated since I didn't capture them? No.
The fact that I didn't "capture her" in that moment, doesn't mean I wasn't captured by her.
We miss chances every day. We don't say what could heal, or we do say what causes pain; we grab a hand too quickly, or we don't grab a hand at all. We are constantly building on a unedited narrative; most of the time, we're writing our stories more like a foggy morning, rather than a summer day.
But missed chances—lost words and actions, or too many words and actions—do not define, or deconstruct and damage, the things we can do in this moment. Missed chances do not need to define a situation, person, or yourself. If you missed a chance and can remedy it, do so. Say the words; be better next time.
Truth is, most of us have the opportunity to remedy things. But it requires a great deal of bravery. And usually a great deal of pain and humility. So take your pictures. Go back and try again. Be brave, and humble, and get ready to cry, and let go; and then cry, and let go. Remedy. Even if it's a mountain of remedies. Text "I love you" when it comes to your mind, "I miss you" when it pierces your heart, and "I'm sorry" when it bottles up your soul.
And if you did miss a chance to say or do something—magnified in something as daunting as the death of a loved one—remember that your "miss" doesn't define the entirety of what you could give, or did give.
Your missed chances, or mistakes, don't define you. Me. Us. They don't write your story. And your story isn't a tally of wrongdoing; it's a story of where you're going from this point on. So live forward. Remember that your grandmother—strong and brave—is much more than any portrait you could have taken. Remember your life is much more than anything you've "missed", or lost. Your life is full of opportunity.
Because this isn't about what you missed.
This is about what you're doing, right now.
(Also here's a "pick me up".)