We can’t always choose what we remember, and we can’t always trust what we remember, either.
Some people take photos in order to capture a moment in time.
I don’t trust photos, for me they’re a lazy person’s memory. A photo of a moment can consume a moment, so that when you later on try to reflect back, the first memory is that scene captured in the photo.
The feelings, the laughter, the weather of that moment can all be forgotten, all replaced with the memory of that photo.
Without the photograph, we have to rely on our own memory. There’s a risk with that, in that we might lose things, we might embellish things, but I find it helps keep the memory alive for longer.
My gran died last year.
It was a very short illness, less than three weeks from being admitted into hospital to dying. It meant that we as a family were lucky in that we all got to say goodbye to her.
A photo was circulated of my gran dancing at my uncle’s wedding. It’s a great photo and I love it. I have it on the desktop of my laptop, so I see her every day and get to say hello to her.
But now, the first thing I think of when I think of my gran is that photo. It’s a mixed blessing, I guess.
Thankfully, it means I very rarely think of her in that hospital bed – I don’t know who that was, but it wasn’t my gran. But, also, I wasn’t there when that photo was taken. I’d gone to another wedding for the evening.
That photo isn’t my memory, and this is where photographs are dangerous. I run the risk of associating that photo with my gran and nothing else, until one day I find I have no memories of my own of her.
The way to keep a memory alive is to think about it a lot. Maybe even writing about it can help, but that has similar risks to photographs in that you can’t capture everything in that moment.
We have quite a big family, there are usually thirteen or fourteen of us, so it’s unusual for any one-on-one time, but about a month or so before my gran went into hospital, we spent the afternoon together, just the two of us.
Everyone was off somewhere doing something, but the result was my gran was looking after my uncle’s dog for the day. I went round to take the dog for a walk as she couldn’t walk all that well because of an issue with her ankle.
In turn, she cooked me bangers and mash – my favourite meal.
After dinner the three of us (me, her, and Callum the dog) sat in the front room and chatted. Spoke about various things, but we also spoke about death.
I don’t really want to go into the full ins and outs of what we discussed, but it helped me a month or so later when the inevitable happened.
I’ve already said that you can’t trust memory, and I can’t remember if that was the last time I saw her out of hospital, but I think it was.
It was a lovely afternoon, and looking back at it now, it was a lovely way to say goodbye. Even though we didn’t know we were saying goodbye at the time.
That’s the memory of my gran I’ll always treasure. I have no photographs of it. The only lasting physical reminder is Callum the dog, but he won’t be around forever.
To remember it, I have to cherish it, and I have to think about it. I really hope I don’t forget it.
Prompt: Something you’ll never forget