March 14th, 2013

Photos: before and after

Sometimes I don’t like to confront the fact of aging. Sometimes it’s okay with me (not that anyone’s asking).

These before and after photos—a person young, the same person older, in the very same pose and similar clothing—are heartbreaking, heartwarming, and fascinating.





to a young child
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

29 Responses to “Photos: before and after”

  1. Jim Nicholas Says:

    I don’t understand the ‘heartbreaking’. It seems to me heartbreaking if life is cut short, losing the potential of a full life and leaving only a photograph of youth.

  2. Mac Says:

    I understand it.

  3. parker Says:

    To everything there is a season.

  4. vanderleun Says:

    Yes, to everything there is a season and sometimes it is not cinnamon but horseradish.

  5. LisaM Says:

    Our local newspaper has been publishing these before/after photos with obituaries. Young men and women in their WWII uniforms and wedding gowns juxtaposed with current photos. I find it fascinating, and yes, a little heartbreaking, although I do think that Jim Nicholas is right.

  6. bob sykes Says:

    For a long-dead Catholic poet, Hopkins may be the most quoted poet encountered nowadays on the internet.

    Now try finding a copy of his collected works on the net.

  7. vanderleun Says:

    “worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie”


  8. T Says:

    I offer that it’s all a matter of our perception. We fail to acknowledge that we are all on a path to our grave from the instant of our birth.

    At a young age, that pathway is obscured by the “whole life ahead of us” with all of the hope and potential of its future. If the average lifespan is 75 years, that’s only about 27,394 days, and just as receiving a monetary inheritance, in the beginning we all have no problem squandering some of those days because those remaining days seem interminable.

    Then, as the aphorism states, “we get too soon old and too late smart,” and realize that we have lived in a culture that idolizes the naivete of youth and has disdain for the wisdom of age.

  9. Ann Says:

    Gotta say, Neo, I think you picked some of the worst photos at that link!

    Many others there are not at all heartbreaking because the older versions still have a light in their eyes. Which really makes all the difference.

  10. CV Says:

    Thank you for that taste of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which takes me back to one of my favorite college classes on metaphysical poets.

    The professor who taught the class (at Catholic Duquesne University) was quite wonderful.

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    To the Virgins, to make much of Time

    GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying:
    And this same flower that smiles to-day
    To-morrow will be dying.

    The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
    The higher he ‘s a-getting,
    The sooner will his race be run,
    And nearer he ‘s to setting.

    That age is best which is the first,
    When youth and blood are warmer;
    But being spent, the worse, and worst
    Times still succeed the former.

    Then be not coy, but use your time,
    And while ye may, go marry:
    For having lost but once your prime,
    You may for ever tarry

  12. parker Says:

    “We fail to acknowledge that we are all on a path to our grave from the instant of our birth.”

    The sole cause of death is birth. Along the way from the cradle to the grave there are days of joy and days of sorrow. Good news is our daughter is 9 months cancer free and counting. We are taking her and our son in law to Iceland for 12 days of adventure in June. Life is good, treasure each day even when it seems like life sucks.

  13. T Says:


    (From a 3x survivor) heartfelt congratulations to your daughter. May she continue to be blessed with good health and may your family time together exceed you expectations.

  14. parker Says:

    Thanks T, long may you run. We’re looking forward to seeing volcanoes, whales, puffins, waterfalls, basking under the midnight sun, and sampling Iceland’s unique cuisine.

  15. Artfldgr Says:

    Don’t forget the Akvavit!!!!!! Skoal!!!!
    [and congrats!!!]

  16. Artfldgr Says:

    A group of people are clustered around a table for a typical lunch that will include several courses and a clear, fiery drink. The host pours the ice-cold liquid into frosty, conical glasses with long stems. He raises his glass, at which point the diners turn to one another and make eye contact, making certain not to leave anyone out. “Skål!” calls out the host, and everyone takes a sip. Again there is eye contact, and then the glasses are set on the table, not to be lifted again until the host raises his. The liquid is aquavit. The ritual is virtually the same throughout Scandinavia


  17. G Joubert Says:

    Coming to terms with aging, are we? In my cohort (mid 60s) I’ve noticed that, generally, women resist it far more than men. I’ve assumed that’s because for women loss of youth, beauty, and sexual allure is a significantly bigger loss than it is for men. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

  18. Jim Nicholas Says:

    ‘. . . for women loss of youth, beauty, and sexual allure . . .’
    This may explain my earlier response of not understanding the ‘heartbreaking’.

    For me, twenty-year old girls were alluring when I was twenty. When I was forty, twenty-year old girls were not alluring; forty-year old women were. And now at 83 I see forty-year old women as children–younger than my own; and it is women who are my contemporaries who are most alluring.

  19. G Joubert Says:

    Jim Nicholas,

    I agree.

  20. JJ formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Life is a journey which can be long or short. The idea is to make the most of the trip. However, some have to carry larger burdens of sorrow, loss, poverty, and all those things that make the journey more difficult. Many make poor decisions that also make things harder. Nonetheless, we have to put one step in front of the other and see where it all leads.

    I’ve always liked this poem. I don’t know the author’s name, but it has always struck me as a pretty good guide to life.

    How long we live is not for us to say.
    We may have many years ahead, or but a day.
    The length of life is not of our control,
    But length is not the measure of the soul…..
    Not length, but width and depth define the span
    By which the world takes measure of a man.
    It matters not how long before we sleep,
    But only how wide is our life…… deep.

  21. SCOTTtheBADGER Says:

    Jim Nicholas, I concour, as well. Twenty year olds are girls, not women, I am after other 51 year olds. Women that I have something in common with.

  22. jamie Says:

    One of my favorite poems. I first learner it when I was about ten and didn’t really understand it; arguably I still don’t “really ” understand it, but now “I am [six-and-forty], and oh, ’tis true, ’tis true!”

  23. Jim Nicholas Says:

    I have spent some time searching for the author of JJ’s poem, without success. Does anyone else know?

  24. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    I’ve started and deleted quite a few responses to this post and each time gone back to simply rereading the Hopkins poem, which says everything and then some.

    As for my own sags and lines and aches and pains, I’ve taken to reminding myself, when they start to bother me, of all the folks who didn’t make it to this age and would have given anything for the chance to live long enough to see time change their looks. Rightly considered, the signs of age are more a reason to celebrate than to mourn.

    And Parker, what wonderful news. Enjoy your trip and your family!

  25. neo-neocon Says:

    Jamie: and that’s one of the points of the poem, isn’t it? Margaret doesn’t really understand why she is so moved, but she is, because she intuits the meaning of the fallen leaves and their relevance to her own fate. Just as you sensed the meaning of the poem.

    I had the same experience, having come across the poem quite early in life.

  26. neo-neocon Says:

    Jamie: also, it might help with your understanding of the poem to learn (if you didn’t already know this) that the word “ghost” in the third line from the bottom means “soul” or “spirit.”

  27. JJ formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Jim Nicholas asked; “I have spent some time searching for the author of JJ’s poem, without success.”

    This is a bit off topic, but an answer as good as I can give you. I don’t think you will find the author – I have looked unsuccessfully myself. When our 20 year old son died in a mountain climbing accident 33 years ago we received a mountain of cards and letters. Some from people we didn’t know and a few came anonymously. This poem was one of the anonymous messages of sympathy. It was a message that resonated for us as our son had lived a life that was very wide and deep for a 20 year old. It was also a message we used to pick ourselves up and carry on in his memory.

    I have sent it to many bereaved parents and other grieving souls. As well as to young people who are looking for guidance. Strange that the author never published the poem. IMO, it’s quite good.

  28. buddha hat Says:

    Another poem about what time does to all of us, if we’re lucky enough to live that long.

    Blue Girls

    Twirling your blue skirts, travelling the sward
    Under the towers of your seminary,
    Go listen to your teachers old and contrary
    Without believing a word.

    Tie the white fillets then about your hair
    And think no more of what will come to pass
    Than bluebirds that go walking on the grass
    And chattering on the air.

    Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail;
    And I will cry with my loud lips and publish
    Beauty which all our power shall never establish,
    It is so frail.

    For I could tell you a story which is true;
    I know a woman with a terrible tongue,
    Blear eyes fallen from blue,
    All her perfections tarnished — yet it is not long
    Since she was lovelier than any of you.

    John Crowe Ransom

  29. Jim Nicholas Says:


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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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