Planning for a family photo is a little like planning for a wedding with a few kids thrown in, minus the cake tasting.

What is everyone going to wear? I suspect I’m not the only man who doesn’t get giddy browsing photo color schemes on Pinterest.

Next up: haircuts. As if they weren’t bothersome enough, weddings and family photos require a smidge of extra effort: adios unintentional side burns.

Then there’s Mother Nature. The burning bushes in the backyard were growing bright red with each passing day and the pressure was mounting. I wouldn’t wish the prospect of a fall family photo without the appropriate multi-colored foliage on my worst enemy. Nobody deserves that. You can’t take a family photo in front of a row of dried up trees; you might as well hold a sign that reads: “Totally missed fall, not exactly doomsday prepper material.”  

It’s also important to be aware of the sun’s projected flight path on the big day. On our photo day, it was projected to set at 6:19 p.m. Personally, I believe we husbands work well with less rigid planning. No sun? Relax, there’s a flare in the glove compartment.

The day arrived and we all needed to be up early for a morning shoot. Perhaps that is the secret to getting children to sleep in. You inform them the night prior of an important morning event: “All right kids, Mommy and Daddy have something very special planned for tomorrow and we need for you to be up early and fully cooperative.” They’ll sleep until dinnertime, guaranteed.  

Though once up, they were in top form, eating and asking typical breakfast fare:

“Dad, will there be shots in heaven?”

“Nope. “

“What about blood draws?”


“Good, they hurt.”

“We won’t have our bodies immediately after we die, we’ll get them back when Jesus returns to earth the second time.”

“What will we have until then?”

“Our spirits.”

“Will it hurt not to have our bodies?”

I hate to short-circuit such theological explorations, but he had to finish his bowl of Honeycomb.

I turned toward Joseph standing in the doorway. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I stared, enthralled by the puzzle.

“Could you turn around,” I asked.

“Sure.” He began to swivel without a hint of shame.

He had strategically combed only the front of his head. The back was in absolute revolt, each strand of hair tussling with its neighbor in a fight to the death grudge match.

“The front looks great, buddy, way to go. But, um, what about the back?”

“Dad, we’re only going to take the picture from the front.”

I paused in recognition of his genius. You see, this is the type of genius God gives us men. We deal with life in a no-nonsense fashion. We are realists. We are practical. We are courageous, bold and unwavering.

“True, but you’ve got to comb the back before your mom sees you,” I replied.

We arrived at the nature preserve and it was a balmy 40 degrees: perfect for a family photograph, walk or ice-fishing. No worries, our photographer was fabulous.

In the end, Teresa and I were relieved. The kids did well. They were all smiles – mostly. In one location, they were asked to sit on a tree. John promptly climbed on to the fallen branch and hammed it up. Abigail and Grace played in the leaves. Then the boys had their shot. They stole the show, posing as regular bosom buddies – minus the all too common karate chops.

I hope I remember all of the little details when I’m old and gray. Hold on, I am gray.

Anyway, I hope I remember also the prophetic breakfast table ruminations, because God desires that one day we all be together in heaven with him. No shots, no blood draws, and no bad hairdos.

In that respect, the family photo needn’t be a snapshot of our family in the prime of its life. It could serve as a precursor to the true wedding feast Christ has in store for us. Yet, this is the great human drama: it’s not a forgone conclusion. It is the narrow path as described in Scripture. We must stay close to Jesus, cooperate with his grace, cultivate virtue and teach our children to do likewise.

So, this week we bought a dry erase board and introduced the kids to a new concept: the “virtue of the week.” As a family we’re going to try and work on one virtue a week. We started off with charity, given that St. Paul notes it is the “bond of perfection.” It will surely be a challenging journey. But it will be worth it. Besides, there aren’t any shots in heaven.

(Joe is married to Teresa. They have four children and run a joyful home in Plymouth. Opportunities for heavenly inspired humor abound. Joe, a librarian and Teresa, a physical therapist, are parishioners at St. John the Baptist, Plymouth.)