I have had people tell me that the experience of losing someone near to you is something you never truly get over. It’s not like the movies where you go through intense periods of grief and one day wake up feeling better. You tend to search for traces of this person as if looking for proof that they aren’t truly gone. When you do find it, it’s almost like having them back again if just for a few moments.
I imagine that’s similar to how it was for Coco when she found an undeveloped film roll within one of her mom’s old cameras. Her boyfriend, Pat, had decided to poke around an old collection of camera bags and discovered her mom’s old Canon EOS IX film camera. It happened to be the camera her mother used the year she died. Better yet, it held inside a used film roll.
It took two weeks for the photos to get developed and that time was spent in anxious anticipation for Coco. Would they live up to the hopeful expectations of seeing things through her mother’s eyes and understanding her better?
She shares that the first time setting her eyes on the photographs brought back the memories behind the stills. The roll turned out to be from the last family trip they were able to take together in Europe, “despite her doctor’s discouragement”:
It kind of transported me back into that time when my mom was sick. The cancer was already in her bones, but she forced herself to take her last trip. I think I just remembered the sadness I felt at the time, but also the joy. My dad and I already talked about the possibility of her dying, but we still had a lot of fun together. It didn’t feel like she was dying at all.
While she couldn’t fully reconstruct the memories and context behind each photograph, she shares a few of her favorites and their significance:
My mother had a miscarriage before she had me. They tried for ten years until they decided to go to Lourdes, France—believed to be a place of miracles—in order to pray for a child. A few months later, I joined the picture. They named me Maria Cristina Lourdes (long name, I know).
This is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, France where we prayed for my mom’s health.
This photo is special because it’s one of the very few photos of my Mom. There’s so much joy in this photo despite the pain our family was going through at the time. After I found this photo, I sent it to my Dad through messenger and he immediately replied with, “We were best friend[s].”
Coco explains that not being able to remember each and every moment was what made the photos more special in the end:
When you use film, you never really know how it’s going to turn out, and so when I finally got the photos, I was pleasantly surprised. If my parents were to have developed these photographs right after the trip, they’d just be another pile of vacation pictures. But after 10 years and with my mom gone — over time, they mean so much more.
Coco’s mother was at home behind the camera lens. She would be constantly documenting moments and choreographing poses. This was one of the many ways she made it clear to her family that they were her focus — on and off-camera. Coco explains that: “it was clear to me in those moments that my Dad and I were the only subjects in her photographs and evidently, in her life.”
Just like any mom, she lived a life of love and lived her life for her family.
Share your own special photos with your moms in the comments with us!