Losing What No One Can Ever Afford To Lose

We live in a world in which there is eternal struggle between winners and losers. Turns out, you and I are at risk in this very struggle every day.

In the case of nature, the struggle hides behind nature’s otherwise benign beauty as animals kill or are killed. In the case of society, the struggle ranges from the life-and-death madness between warring nations all the way to the silly madness of losing teams like our perennial laugh-an-inning Chicago Cubs.

However, of all the losses in all the world perhaps there is none so quietly horrific as the loss of one’s memory. To search the sunken eyes of Alzheimer’s patients slumped in hallway wheelchairs is the ultimate encounter with what it means to be dead-inside-a-living-body.

Like most treasures, memory is something we take for granted. But without this faculty we wouldn’t know who or where or why we are at any given moment. To the diseased brain, there is no then, now, or to-come. The neurological circuits don’t work, and so the joy of holding your grandchild yesterday floats in and out of a blurred consciousness today and perhaps disappears forever tomorrow.

Here’s the bottom line.

To lose one’s memory remains a tragedy about which we still have only little control. But to waste that faculty because of neglect, that’s a tragedy we can control. As the historian put it: “Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.” As J.M. Barrie put it: “God gave us memory so we might have roses in December.” As Mark Twain put it: “When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.”

The way I put it: I live in the hope of becoming a memory.

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