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Sharon Goldwater: Capturing life's special moments

I always have the best of intentions when it comes to recording the special moments in life. Whenever there is a family birthday or wedding, I get the camera out and dust it off. Then, I usually leave it sitting on the kitchen table when I leave to attend the party. Or I start to take pictures and realize there is no memory card installed, or the batteries die.

Recently, my youngest grandson was christened, and I recorded most of it with the wrong shutter speed so most of the photos are blurry. Picture-taking is just not my forte, no matter how hard I try.

Thankfully, my father-in-law loved to take pictures of everything and everyone. Dad could always be counted on to capture baby's first steps, our kids' first home run, every first kiss, the toothless grins, the endless puffy cheeks of loved ones as they blew out the candles year after year. Thanks to him, I have indelible reminders of my daughter's valedictory address, my husband with a full head of dark curly hair and the smile on my face as I watched each of my sons marry the woman of his dreams.

We lost my father-in-law in March of this year. Until I was preparing a photo board for the funeral, I never realized how invaluable his love of photography was, and just how much it reflected his love for his family.

A couple of years ago, Dad had spent months converting old family slides to digital media. Then, along with all the pictures from the past decades, he painstakingly sat and did his best to put them in chronological order.

He then entered everything into a computer file and gave each of his four children a copy of everything. On one small flash drive, the life events of 60 years of marriage spanning five generations of family were captured forever.

As Dad lay in his hospital bed facing his own mortality, he told us how happy he was that he had decided to catalog all the pictures. It gave him so much peace to know he had handed over his legacy to each of his kids. He said if he got out of the hospital, he had more pictures to do. He never got that chance.

I recently wanted to copy the contents of that flash drive to give to a cousin. Foolishly, I had said I would burn a CD of the pictures and mail it to her in Boston. I was completely blown away to discover there were 2,631 images recorded. I sat there, thinking of all the love that Dad had poured into the countless hours he must have spent gathering, converting, sorting and filing those photos. No wonder we were handed a 4GB memory stick rather than a CD. A lifetime of memories is difficult to hold.

I held in my hand 60 years of love, laughter, tears, hopes and dreams - some fulfilled, some not. What was evident to me, though, was that the strength of family bonds gets you through the toughest times. The heartache mixed in among the moments of awe and wonder were shared by all of us, recorded by a man who loved his family deeply. Dad delighted in capturing each and every event on camera.

My father-in-law was short in stature, but he was certainly a giant of a man. His love for his family was reflected in his meticulous recording of every life event in our family. I will do my best to carry on his great love of photography. I just hope I can remember the camera.