The day after Jon’s funeral, I said I wasn’t going to write about his death on my blog anymore.
That was crazy talk. I currently think about Jon for about 58 of every 60 minutes. How could I stop writing about him now?
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Swaziland, June 2008.
I was browsing through my hard drive the other night and stumbled on this old photo. I lost my breath for a second when I saw it. It’s one of my favorite photographs. A framed print of it used to hang on the wall of my townhouse in northern Virginia, but I left it behind when I moved to Joburg.
As soon as I rediscovered the photo, I knew I wanted to write a blog post about it. I took the picture in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Swaziland in June 2008, at the top of Nyonyane Mountain. Nyonyane Mountain, as the Swazis among you know, is a sacred place.
Jon was standing next to me when I snapped the frame on my Canon Powershot. The Land Rover in the distance was his. That Land Rover, strange as it sounds, was also sacred in a way, at least to us. It was Jon’s prized possession and he and I spent lots of time together in that vehicle, talking and laughing and sitting in silence.
I remember exactly how I felt at the moment I shot this. I felt utterly overwhelmed by the beauty of the sunset on that sacred mountain, and by the intense, inexplicable, impossible feelings I had for the crazy man who owned the gas-guzzler in my viewfinder. I wanted laugh and cry, to scream at the top of my lungs. I wanted to explode, or melt, or break apart. Instead I stood there, quietly aching, and took a picture.
On that day I consciously admitted to myself that I loved Jon. Another 18 months went by before I said it aloud, and two years before I came here for good.
I’m glad I found this photo again.
Speaking of which…The reason I found the Land Rover photo is because I was searching desperately through my archives for video footage of Jon. And believe it or not, even though I have a great video recorder in my DSLR and a nifty little flip cam, I found almost nothing. Jon and I weren’t very interested in video, for some reason. I only used my video recorder to interview people on assignment.
I have no idea how many times Jon told me he loved me. I know it was in the thousands though. I have no idea how many times he looked at me, with a serious half-smile, and asked, ‘Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?’
I would do absolutely anything to have that on video now. But I didn’t record it. Not even once.
So I’d like to offer a piece of advice to everyone reading this. Find a video camera – almost everyone has one these days – and then go find the person you love most. Your husband, your wife, your son, your girlfriend, your mom – whoever. Tell that person you love her, and record it. Ask her to do the same for you. Don’t wait. Do it right now. Or as soon as you get home tonight.
Tell everyone you know to do the same.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Here are two more nice tributes to Jon:
From the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
This is a great suggestion, Heather. So glad to see you write about Jon again. Love the photo—-
Thanks. You were right 🙂
It takes me back to my childhood in Swaziland. Our visits with my grandparents who lived there after we moved to Durban when I was 5….My grandfather’s Land Rover that took us to this very place. Such peaceful memories. I look forward to returning to Swaziland sometime soon.
Thanks for sharing your memories of Jon again. I know from my own experience how important it is to talk about and share one’s thoughts and feelings for as long as it takes, once someone has passed on. For me it has helped the healing process.
Thank you Jenn. Mlilwane is certainly a good place for Land Rovers.
H, you made me cry and you are a beautiful writer. Your words are always understated and never melodramatic. You need to write that book and in the mean time I am going to go do this.
Thanks Namrata. And thank you for following my advice. You’ll be glad you did, but hopefully not for another 60 years or so.
I am sure I’m not the first to have to think twice that such a beautiful image came out of a point-and-shoot 🙂
And I can think of no more special a place than right there to come full circle to acknowledging your own feelings. Thank you for sharing and also for the prompt to take a moment to capture “I Love You”‘s.
Now when you next look at that last image again, remember this: it’s not just Jon in the capture, you’re there too – just a shadow away. Now its just the other way around and he will always be just a shadow away from you, for now.
Thanks for seeing that shadow, Stanley.
And yeah, sometimes I wonder why I ever upgraded to to an SLR! That Powershot is a great camera. I must also credit my father, Tenney Mason, for helping with PhotoShopping that pic 🙂
“Where there is sorrow, there is hallowed ground.” – Oscar Wilde wrote in De Profundis. The best way to walk through these grounds, for me, was writing it out of my system sitting with a blank piece of paper and writing firstly “How Do I Feel” not “What am I supposed to feel”. Through the writing of literally thousand of pages long hand I crossed those grounds. Catharsis it’s called. It may be presumptuous but maybe you have to start writing. Thinking of you, each day.
Thank you Derek. I’m very grateful to have this blog, as longhand is not my strong suit. You’re totally right though.
a lovely post which has moved all of us that have read it Im sure. hope all is ok with you Heather. jacks
Thanks Jacks. I’m doing okay.
Beautiful post Heather – you are such a talented writer and wonderful person.
I’m going to take your advice right now. I think it’s so great that you’re spreading Jon’s legacy through your blog, I never met him, but from the few pictures you’ve posted and from what you’ve written I can see that you two really have something special.
Thanks Jenna. I hope you and J enjoyed the video shoot. It makes me feel better know that people are actually doing this.
please don’t stop writing about him. You can’t go back to normal just like this and you shouldn’t pretend to as well. It’s very inspiring, and I could feel it when I looked at the LandRover. “quietly aching”.. And I hope it is somehow healing for you to share it.
I just read a book were a father who was sick, wrote to his son (4yrs old), knowing that he will die soon. He wrote him a letter he was supposed to read when he is old enough (he found it in an old toy when he is 15). And when the son is reading it, he’s telling about his grandma, who always said it is so very wrong to watch people who passed away on video tapes. Because there is a border you shouldn’t cross. And the grandmother said you mustn’t laugh about people who are dead. I didn’t agree when I read this, I just remembered it when I read your post. Now I really like the idea of taking my loved ones on video. Anyway, important is that we say and hear I love you at all. That we feel it, to love and maybe even more important – to be loved. And everyone who does is lucky.
In that book (The Orange Girl from Jostein Gaarder) they say: The father couldn’t give his son the answers anymore, but he could still ask him the right questions.
Hope you find answers for yourself.
I also loved your last post and the speech. And.. be angry. It’s your right. When you are ready, you will forgive.
Thank you Sonja. That sounds like a beautiful book.
Heather, your post is beautiful beyond words. I can feel your heart ache for Jon. Your love together must have been amazingly strong and real. I think it is very good for you and for Jon to write about your special times together. As hard as this may sound, I feel this is some of your most touching, beautiful albeit haunting work. The photo of the sunset speaks beyond words. I can only imagine your feelings for him as you took the picture. Wow. You are leaving me breathless. Please keep writing and sharing your stories. It will help you heal.
Thanks Nicole. I do feel like writing about things helps, although this still really sucks 🙂
The first one is mind blowing photograph. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Joshi!
There is no reason at all why you should stop writing about Jon. He was a huge part of your life and always will be.
Yes, I’m not sure what I was thinking before.
Hang in there sweetheart.
Heather, what a beautiful post and stunning photo. I love love love the the serenity in the Swaziland mountains, truly sacred. I am grateful every day for the love I have in my life, but like you, I don’t have it captured on video. Advice taken!
Thanks MzansiGirl. I’m hoping to start a trend here!
H, I still have the original of this photo framed and awaiting the move…we were going to take it to the UK. Should we? I love this photo, we’ll hang it until you come and get it.
Love you and miss you my friend,
OMG, I totally forgot that you had it! I thought it was sitting in Dad’s attic. Gosh, I don’t even remember if we showed it to Jon when we were at your place last year. Did we?
Yes, please take it with you. I’ll get it from you one of these days.
I have no words for this post.
Just say it is the best photo for the eyes and heart.
Thanks so much for your comment on this and the other posts. I’m glad you like them 🙂