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  • Writer's pictureShana Ritter

Memory and Remembrance

For the last half hour I have been looking up the differences between memory and remembrance. I still cannot quite clearly articulate it. Memory it seems is a function, a system, the way in which we hold or recall knowledge and experience.  Remembrance seems to be intoned with emotion, how we recall something we experienced. It can also be an item we’ve saved to help us hold on to something. Even the sound of it seems tinged with melody, with sight and color, with scent.

We think of having a good memory as the ability or inability to recall the context and particulars of  a remembrance. But it is possible to experience the tenor of a long ago interaction, the texture of a place once visited and still not frame it in sequential time.

My oldest brother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I am keenly aware of how memory and thought process are shifting for him. How he often finds himself on quicksand when he thought he was on solid ground. He is in the early stages and so long conversations about how he is feeling, reminiscences from childhood, upcoming visits are  not just possible but rich. It is  the daunting specifics of the recent hours, the functionality of the iPhone, the mechanics of things which are becoming allusive – when before they would have been second nature to him. When my brother was first diagnosed I struggled to understand the difference between forgetting, all of my friends were having trouble completing a sentence, recalling an author, remembering the date, and the landscape of Alzheimer’s. He said something which clarified it for me and has stayed with me: “it’s not that I forget what time it is, it’s that I can’t remember what the second hand is for.”

The high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have just passed. I was lucky enough to spend time with friends I have know since I was a teenager. We did a lot of reminiscing, but for each of us the memories were tinged in different ways; somethings more important to some than others, but we were in the same landscape. My brother is still mostly in this landscape, but I see glimpses of how his geography is shifting.

The lines between past, present and future have always been a bit blurred for me, time a shifting path depending on the perspective we walk it from. I continue to question how we hold memory, and how we cherish remembrance.

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