Memories shape our lives

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2011

I spend a lot of time with a camera by my side and a pen or a computer nearby.
As a journalist, I stay ready to record what I see, what I hear, whatís happening in the world around me.
Itís a job I take seriously, and something I love, and I think Iím good at capturing peopleís lives and experiences in words.
But I am not a very good photographer. The pro-grade camera I use for the Post is a loaner. What skills I have, I picked up along the way.
When I met Julie Keels a few years ago, she amazed me with her ability to capture an image that told a story.
She had a talent for creating pictures that captured the life of the world in front of her.
When she died Tuesday evening, gone far too soon at the age of 28, I felt as if one of my best friends had died, even though no one would say we were very close.
Reading Shelley Smithís article in yesterdayís paper, I saw how many peopleís lives Julie touched ó even those who knew her for only a short time.
Except for short messages on Facebook, she and I hadnít really spoken for about a year.
I first met Julie when I started going to the coffee shop where she was working, about six years ago.
I was working on my degree and holding down a couple of part-time jobs. She was an art-school student looking toward a bigger career behind the camera lens.
Julie was someone who stood out in the lives of those who knew her. She had a keen sense of humor, a passion and drive for the things she cared about.
In the hours after the car crash, her friends reached out to create an online group, asking for prayers and support.
Within hours, hundreds were there ó some who had never met Julie before, some (like me) whose lives had only intersected with hers for a short time. And some ó her close friends and family, who knew her much better than I ó who feel her absence terribly.
The loss of a friend, a loved one, a colleague, a classmate.
Ripples that reach out and remind us of how valuable those memories are, those moments spent together.
I donít know that I have much right to write about Julieís life. Plenty of people knew her better, were closer to her than I was.
What I know is that the people we care for, those we meet in the course of our busy lives, are a part of who we are.
All of the images we capture ó family, friends and the places we know ó are part of the lives we live.
They make us who we are. No matter how deep and binding the friendship, no matter the length of time or the distance in between.
So I say, celebrate the people you know. Remember those who form a part of your life, for however brief a time.
It can all end too soon and suddenly, leaving only photographs and memories behind.
For a while, I know that when I pick up that borrowed camera, Iím going to think of Julie.
Iím going to remember the times we shared, the laughs we had, the images she captured.
All of them parts of a much bigger collage, too big to comprehend.
Hugh Fisher is a freelance reporter and educator. He has been a correspondent for the Post since 2003.