Dead boys sitting beside a pond

This is a 1929 postcard of the original Protestant Cathedral at Yawgoog Scout Reservation on Wincheck Pond's Thrush Cove, courtesy of The Story of the Yawgoog Trails.


I love this photo. The site of the Protestant Cathedral at Yawgoog is one of my favorite places on the planet.

But my heart also aches while looking at this image. I always feel this way looking at photos like this. Almost any old photo, really.

Look at these boys. They have so much of life still ahead of them. So much to look forward to. So much potential. They are young and strong and have no idea what challenges and blessing are in store for them. It’s a moment of their lives captured forever by a unknown photographer, but other than this image, this moment and their lives are tragically fleeting.

Even with so much ahead of them, their time on this Earth is spinning out faster than their young minds could ever imagine.

This photograph is 84 years old. Most, if not all of these young boys, are dead now. Their lives are over. All of that potential and possibility has reached its conclusion. This day spent on the shores of Wincheck Pond is not even history. Other than this single photo, there is no record or remembrance of that day.

In another 84 years, no one alive will even remember that these boys ever existed. A great-grandchild might remember a first name or possess some apocryphal story about a moment of courage in a war fought before their parents were even born, but that will be it. Despite the primacy and importance of their lives in their time, nothing will remain of these boys by the shores of that small pond.  

I find myself wanting to reach into the photograph, reach back through time, and warn these boys of how insubstantial life is and how soon they will all be dust. I want to tell them to breathe in the air, squint into the sunshine, dip their toes into the pond water and mark this moment in some way that will make it last forever. For them and for us who will follow. 

Except for most people and almost every moment in time, forever is impossible. We have this photograph, this miracle of light and film that has captured an image of a moment beside a pond, but nothing more. History has been lost to the ether, never to be recovered.

My heart aches for these boys. It aches for all of us.