While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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Dear Jonah,

What was it with you and your camera? I’m not complaining, mind you; I’m just kind of stunned by it all. In 2006, you asked me if you could have one and I gave you mine (always happy to have an excuse to upgrade my tech). You used it all the time. You took so many pictures. And it’s not at all clear to me why. On the one hand, you snapped photographs of what appears to be everyone who ever attended a NFTY event or a PGT gathering. So maybe you wanted to chronicle the world as it unfolded around you. On the other hand, you sometimes paused to capture something exceptionally beautiful in nature. And I think, “Wow, where did he get the soul that allowed him to step away from the frenzy of his teenage years and catch a moment of infinity?”

First Self-Portrait May 2005

First Self-Portrait
May 2005

“Everyone has a photographic memory, but not everyone has film.” I’m guessing that, in the same way you have so many of your friends’ photographs collected on your hard drive, there are lots of pictures of you on your friends’ hard drives. And except for those posted on Facebook, lots of them may never get seen. But you made a point of taking pictures of yourself, or pictures of you with someone else, and those are all on your hard drive too. And I have to ask, “Why?”

It’s a big question too, because you left me way too soon and now I’m starved for evidence that you were here and stuff that I can look at to remember you by. Somehow, you took that into account. You saved so many pictures of yourself that I now have and keep close to me. You couldn’t have known, could you? Or did you, at some much deeper level of consciousness, understand that your life would have a limited run? Perhaps I’m just lucky that you were one of those kids who always had a camera in his hand and enjoyed pointing it at yourself along the way.

Self-Portrait (my favorite) September 2006

Self-Portrait (my favorite)
September 2006

Eudora Welty wrote, “A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.” This is part of how I now live my life, Jonah … endeavoring to keep the moments of your life from disappearing. I collect words that you’ve written. I collect pictures you’ve drawn. I collect music you’ve played. And I collect photographs – those you’ve taken, and those others have taken of you. It’s not a perfect effort; it jogs my memory of you, but it’s not you. So I cry when I look at my collections. I cry because I miss you. I cry because I remember you. I cry because I wish I could touch you. Hold you. Tell you one more time how much I love you. And how grateful I am to have shared my life with you.

Yeah, I know. Mom and I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, we’ve taken more than our share of the photographs that fill our home. Perhaps you just picked up on that and began to carry it to the next generation. Whatever the reason, your pictures are a precious gift to us, and I just want to say thank you. Not only were you a wonderful son, you were a damn good archivist.

Self-portrait.03Nobody knew it, but that’s one of the most important things you needed to be.

Douglas Adams wrote, “If somebody thinks they’re a hedgehog, presumably you just give ’em a mirror and a few pictures of hedgehogs and tell them to sort it out for themselves.” Not sure what it is you saw when you looked at pictures of yourself, JoJo. But when I look at your photos, I’m reminded how dear and precious a young man you had become. And will remain.

Still loving you forever,
Dad

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