In the aftermath of my stroke, I wrote a series of poems examining how I felt, how the impact of the stroke had affected me. I thought today I would share one of these poems. I have problems with memory. I have to write down everything I need to do.

I have alarms on my phone to remind me to take my medication. I have note pads everywhere in the house where I jot down the bits and pieces that make up life – shopping lists, passwords, where I’ve put my purse, what I have to do today. Of course, I forget where I have written this all down so I have it written in several note books. I try to cross off things as I do them.

The next problem is that although I may have completed a task, that does not mean that I remember that I have done it. So although I may have ticked it off  in one book, when I come across the reminders in another note book, I end up having to check if I’ve actually done it. It is a never ending cycle which takes up a lot of time – looking for things, checking I’ve done things, put right the problems when I have genuinely forgotten to do them.

This had become a bit of a standing joke in the family. If I didn’t laugh about it, I would scream in frustration. The short term memory problems I have learned to cope with. Of more concern is the longer term memories. How do I know that they are forming properly. I have had a new cooker for months now. I still can’t remember how to turn on the gas rings, and every time have to manually check the little diagrams on the front.

Again I am coping with this, but when I look back at my life, I take pleasure in the memories of what my life was like then, the things I’ve done – holidays with the family, celebrating weddings and handfastings, birthdays, outings. The arguments and the making up, rituals, movies I’ve seen, all the little things that define who you are. The memories that were formed pre-stroke are still intact, but will new ones form and stay with me? That is not so clear. I can sort of remember things. Sometimes.

So here is my poem.

Do you remember when?

Memories are made to last,
reminders of what has been
so when you’ve time to take a while
you can live again that precious past,
those painful, tender, happy times.
Be once again yourself as you were then
with family and friends,
and what fun at gatherings
with your mates down the pub
or sat around the Sunday table,
at funerals where no-one talks
till someone says
‘Do you remember when?’
and everyone adds their part.
The memory grows like a whispering snake,
is kept alive and we have a laugh
or we well up with a catch in our throats
at some lost yet poignant moment
etched in the brain by the pain
of that heart made memory.

I don’t remember what I did this morning.

I dream myself in the future.
‘Do you remember when?’
That day in spring or was it autumn,
when we went to Barmouth
or it might have been Brean
with Bob and Beth, or was it Ally and Ash
and we sat on the beach.

I think.

Will my heart fill with the warmth of those times
if I have no details to bring them to mind?
Can I rely on the folks that were there
to bring back the memories
for others to share?
Or will I be left to just feel the moment,
the love that I felt, so keenly aware
of the blessings I had,
but no memory of what
had made my heart sing.

Details misplaced.

A smile on my face that lingers
long after the sun has gone down.

Written by Portland Jones, Disability Liaison for Pagan Federation Midlands