4th August 2021

I’ve been clearing out some old boxes – some of them containing papers, letters and notes going right back. I decided to be ruthless and reduce the whole amount down to a neat little pile. At least, that was the plan. Then I started going through the papers and – every one contained a memory. They were more than bits of paper in a box (dusty, yellowed…); they came complete with bits of life attached.

Can the memories survive without the bits of paper to bring them back to mind? Memories are important; they seem to make up who we are; there is a view that we are not who we are if we can’t remember. But – ask anyone who’s had anything to do with an Alzheimer sufferer – surely we are more than just a bundle of memories. Even those who find it hard to remember are recognisably, fully human.

I’ll have to go back to the bits of paper and try again to reduce the pile. If I succeed, will the memories go with the paper? Or will they stay, somewhere deep in the corner of my mind, waiting only to come blinking into the light of the present? And what of today’s events? Most of them will be commemorated in a computer file or a smartphone photograph. In the future, will I miss the dust, the yellow? That’s the thing – the paper brought back memories not just because of what it said, but because of how it felt… maybe that’s why some of the most precious memories aren’t just words; they’re… ‘this do in memory of me’.

Michael Docker