The WordPress Photo Challenge theme this week is evanescent, defined as something “soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence.” I thought about the many directions in which this could go before settling on memory itself: slippery, fleeting, but a holder of great power.
We filter – sometimes inexplicably – the data that stays with us. It’s absurd that I can remember the inane lyrics to jingles from 1980s TV commercials, but the name of a person I’ve just met immediately vanishes into some sort of mnemonic black hole in my brain.
Our memories aren’t always clearly defined or fixed. More often, they’re stretchy and pliable; they’re coloured by perspective and frayed by time. We equate our own memories with truth – the truth? our truth? – but we have to be wary that they’re inevitably tied to our gamut of emotions and biases.
Despite the complexity and sometimes fickle nature of our memories, there can be no doubt that they help shape our most intimate personal connections, that they’re among the ingredients with which our values and behaviours and relationships are formed. Intentionally or not, our memories continually teach us and play a hand in guiding our choices.
And even when the details of a memory have been dulled or altered by time or circumstance, the complex emotions associated with it will linger, ingrained. A quote often attributed to Maya Angelou (but not verified) states: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you’ve been touched by the experience of a loved one with an illness like dementia or a brain injury, you can begin to understand the heartbreak of witnessing progressive memory loss. For those afflicted, short-term memories are fleeting and can evaporate within moments. Long-term memories can become distorted or even completely fabricated. Personality and mood can shift and waver unpredictably. Caregivers and loved ones often experience confusion, helplessness and the pain of what seems like a prolonged and incremental state of grief.
For today’s post, then, I chose a photo I made of this tiny spring bloom. The “forget-me-not” as a symbol for those struggling with memory loss seems like rather cruel irony. But ultimately, it represents something deeper, wider: connection and loyalty and remembrance; a delicate reminder of love never lost, despite separation by time, or by space, or even by a memory-stealing illness.
However complicated or messy it may be… love remains.