I’ve come full circle, back to my very first letter to you. Back to the photo I treasure so much. And back to your little boy, gone before his time.
Fredie Blair, born January 1898, died October 26, 1902. Dead at the age of 4.
In my sweep through genealogy this summer, I came across him, little Fredie, and just had to know what happened. Any unsure of the power of familysearch.org should now be convinced. Here is his death certificate, fuzzy yet clearly telling. He died of pneumonia.
I understand the family photo now. I get the urgency you must’ve felt. Perhaps it’s a bit indulgent and another flight of fancy, but here is how I envision the scene unfolding…
Gather them Henry, you said, we’re to go to the photographer this very afternoon. I’ll not let another day slip away with nothing but memories to keep me … you broke off as the tears began again. Henry hurried to harness the old mare.
That’s right, Frankie, you heard right. Now dress in your Sunday clothes and be quick. Your mum’s waiting in the carriage.
Mary wouldn’t need any prodding, Rosa’s sister knew, she’d do anything to please her mum. Anything to lessen that terrible ache.
The ride to the photographer’s was silent, as most outings were just now. Fredie would’ve brought the laughter. Seemed he took it all away when he died. Damn those cold October rains. Henry clicked the horse on faster. Last thing he needed was more sickness, more death and them out and exposed in an open buggy for God’s sake.
Rosa stared ahead with an arm wrapped tightly around each child. She’d hold them close. She’d keep them warm. There could be no more loss in her family.
The photographer nodded his understanding at their unscheduled appearance. Word had spread throughout town about young Fredie’s death.
Sit here, Mrs. Blair, he directed kindly and Mary, love? You’re to her left.
Frankie, he guided him, stand close now. She needs you, see?
Hattie’s to be in the picture, you demanded. Not another damn day without some kind of image. Some way to remember those that pass before their time.
Little Frankie’s hand slipped on top of your’s, Rosa, just in the last second and in an instinctive gesture of love. I’m still here, he seems to say with the innocence of a 7-year-old. I still need you to be okay.
In that moment, that click of a shutter, you lived on Rosa. I see you and your two precious children. I understand now the terrible sorrow and fierce determination in your gaze. Fredie’s missing in the photo, but not in your heart.
And now you live in mine.