This I Believe

Megan - Indian Head Park, Illinois
Entered on February 25, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

It’s only a matter of time before everything becomes history. Call me morbid, but I’m in touch with the fact that time is a ruling factor in life, forcing everything at some point to become part of the past. Thinking about my childhood, freshman year of high school, 7:45 this morning, or even when I recited the first sentence of this speech, the way in which these events have transpired and slyly drifted from the present to the past seems incredible. The present slips by so quickly that it is a wonder anyone can really know for sure what truly has occurred. Where’s the proof? The proof of the past lies in individual memories, golden tokens that lie encapsulated in our minds, serving as currency in memory banks. It’s such a common and natural ability to acquire memories, making it completely natural as well to take this gift for granted. Though for much of my life I did, I now believe that memory is the greatest gift in life.

While growing up, I knew my only living grandmother basically as a crazy woman who was losing her mind. While the doctors called it irreversible dementia, I simply called it memory loss. Though I tagged it with a rather modest name, I witnessed the progression of the disease with agony as her memory slowly deteriorated and her mind collapsed. Near the end of her life she remembered so little that she almost ceased to exist, and when she did at last die, she become just another golden memory to me.

Watching my grandmother wither away because of her failing memory struck me hard in the end. I realized immediately that I may not have my cherished memories forever, and that time was always running out. From that point onward I tried my best to catch and capture time in a multitude of ways. I started a journal to record my thoughts and preserve my day-to-day tasks. I brought a camera to every event, documenting my life in picture. But while all these were great keepsakes, what good were they really doing? I realized that merely capturing memories was not enough; I needed to learn from them.

I believe in memory and regard it as the greatest gift in life; as the basis of learning, life simply cannot exist without it. My grandmother’s life ended over a decade after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but her mind died away long before. Without a properly functioning memory, she couldn’t live a normal life. She forgot where she lived, how to go to the bathroom, who her family was, and ultimately who she was herself. In memory of my grandma, I learned a lesson that I will remember though my lifetime: while life and time are continuous and nonstop, nothing in life is eternal. For the sake of this truth, I will treasure my precious collection of golden tokens as they accumulate in my memory bank, until that too, is just a memory.