One of the most amazing things about pictures is the story they tell. I love when you see a picture and your perspective of it completely changes once you hear the story behind it. Or when you see a picture of a music artist you love and you’re blown away because they look nothing like you expected, and then you always think of their face when you hear their music from then on. Or when you look up the meaning behind lyrics and wish you hadn’t because suddenly the song loses it magic for you. I may or may not have done all these things . . . but simply knowing the behind the scenes moments changes everything about your perspective.
Pictures have the opportunity to preserve memories forever, and never more so than now with endless pictures. We can take pictures with our phones, our cameras, our computers – almost any handheld device has that capability! Our computer hard drives are filling up with pictures we’ve took of our kids, our memory cards are full, and picture frames around the house are filled and (in my house, at least) constantly revolving to new pictures. But imagine that you only had one or two images to sum up your family’s story!
My Dad caught the ancestry bug – digging and learning all you can about our ancestors. There is so much I would never have even an inkling about if it hadn’t been for his dedication towards learning and preserving our family history. I love imagining what it would be like to step into their world – to strip away the black and white and faded surroundings and replace them with the real life I knew they all lived.
A few weeks ago my Dad sent me a couple images to see if I could clean them up some more. My Dad had scanned them onto his computer, but the images were so old that they had already faded and corroded at points. One picture, in particular, was of my Grandpa’s cousin Norman who had been killed in World War II serving his country, Canada. I cleaned up the image as best I could and tried to colorize with my best educated guess for colors. Though it didn’t do much, I feel like it breathed new life into this single image of a young man who grew up in rural Ontario playing with his brothers and cousins. And then choosing the most courageous path, one that ultimately he gave his life for.
Norman Cole was the youngest of 4 brothers born to Joseph and Florence Cole in rural Ontario, Canada. In 1944, at the age of 20 he volunteered to join the Canadian Army along with my Grandfather, David Cole. After training in Ontario, he was sent over to England where he was soon sent into battle on the front lines. On March 3, 1945 in a successful but casualty heavy battle dubbed “Blockbuster,” my Grandfather was taken prisoner at the age of 19 and his cousin, Norman, lost his life at the age of 21 when he was killed by a mortar round.
You see, this single image means so little at first glance. But when you see behind the scenes into the life of this young man, his story comes alive and brings his world that much closer to our own. Its easy to get caught up in taking endless pictures, but I would encourage you to document your pictures. Allow the memories and stories behind your images to unfold and be told for future generations. One day your great, great granddaughter will be asking about you – who you were, how you lived, and the experiences you had. What an amazing heritage to be able to pass down not only a single image, but a book of memories captured to be relived for countless generations.
Below are some pictures my Dad sent me that he took in Holland of Norman’s grave site and the field where he was killed. Its so peaceful and serene now, its hard to imagine the deathly tolls it once sung.
I’m excited to be starting this new series where I’ll share more of the stories from my ancestors, the images they left behind, and the adventures we’ve been lucky enough to know even a little about.
Do you have any old family pictures you’d like to get touched up? I’d love to see them and breathe new life into them! And, if you’re willing, share them here on my blog. There’s nothing I like more than a great story, and old family photos can tell some pretty amazing ones!