Posted by: knitknigel | April 6, 2009

The Persistence of Memory

Along the Seawall in Vancouver there are many places where you can stop and rest on a park bench. These are welcome seats often with a dramatic view to Vancouver Island, the mountains or the freighters in the bay. All the benches have been provided by friends and families of people who have died. And many of them say “In Memory of…” or “In Loving Memory of…”

How wonderful memory is! My father died in 1988 and after I had returned from his funeral in Newfoundland, I found myself thinking of him far more often than I had expected to. In some ways it was uncomfortable – why were these memories surfacing to make me feel sad and lost? Then one day, I met a colleague on the street who asked about me and expressed her condolences. I told her that I kept thinking about him. She said, “Yes, my father died some time ago, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of him.”

I realized then that this was a normal part of grieving – that these memories were not burdens but gifts. Without memories of the lives of our parents we would be the less. My mother died in 2006, and now my memories of her, her sense of humour, her love for life, and the things she taught and shared with me (yes, I’m thinking about knitting here), have enriched my life. I celebrate her life in my knitting – continuing that thread which runs through families.

My husband Geordie’s mother and his two aunts all lived with Alzheimers. For some years before their deaths, when they got together, they reminisced about their lives as children growing up on the farm. They remembered the horse which acted as babysitter, their journey to and from school. They never mentioned what had happened to them the week before, or even the day before, those memories were gone. But they still had their memories of childhood as their bond. How wonderful that even in the latter years of their lives it was their childhood memories that lingered longest.

So when I walk the Camino, I will be remembering. I will remember our family, I will remember my youth, and I will remember you who read my words here today. And I will be thankful that there are organizations like AlzheimersBC who offer support for those of us who care for our parents who suffer dementia. They fund research, and I am glad to be part of that too, for those they help and those they will help.



  1. Memory makes us human.
    That is why it is so desperately sad when memory goes.

    Remembering those who’ve gone!
    For now,,,

  2. Wonderful. I worked in GeroPsych years ago and watched people deteriorate with Alzheimer’s. The older memories they managed to hold onto were so poignant. Thank you for what you’re doing. My heart walks with you.


  3. Hi Nigel,

    Like you, my parents have passed on. As you and I grew up in Buchans, you may remember them. My mother, Rosanna, died in 1972 at 55 years of age after a hard-fought battle with leukemia. My memory of those summer months as she endured painful treatments with no success continue to remain fresh. That May, my brother Paul graduated from high school on the very day she was admitted to hospital in Grand Falls, Nl. The grad photograph taken of him and dad during the festivities clearly shows their pain. Three months later, my mother passed in her sleep as I sat beside her hospital bed.

    My father, Kenneth, mourned my mother’s passing for a long time. He did find happiness again and he remarried a lovely woman. He lived to be 73 and exited this life quickly eventhough his RN step daughter, Pam, worked unsuccessfully to restart his heart. I still enjoy short episodes with them in my dreams.

    My husband lost a son three years ago. Adam was only 21 when he and a buddy celebrated a homecoming. Adam drank too much alcohol; he fell asleep, and passed away.

    How could I console Darryl? I remember telling him that he would “see” his son again in his dreams. Dreams had temporarily brought my parents back to me and he would experience dreaming conversations with his son, too. Of course, he would always have him in his memories. With time, his heart has healed a little and he has enjoyed several bittersweet dreams of Adam. Where would we be without our memories of loved ones?

    On a little happier theme, I wanted to tell you my childhood memories of knitting! My mother was an avid knitter and our home was filled with
    doilies she had made. Her hands were forever busy with needles or a crochet hook. I recall vividly coming home from university and she would display sweaters she had knitted for Nonia. I remember asking her about the mistakes she had made in those intricate cable and popcorn patterns. Her answer was “none, as Nonia would not accept mistakes”. She loved to knit and did not produce her masterpieces for her paycheque. in fact, she was paid less that $1.00 a ball of wool for her expertly knitted orders.

    Years later, I was knitting a Mary Maxim pattern and had trouble attaching the collar; I had knitted it three time and each time, I had taken it back and had redone it. One night, I dreamed about my dilemna and the answer came to me! Only a knitter like yourself would understand that!!

    Thanks for the opportunity to go back a few years, Nigel. I sincerely hope that we all recognize each other when we reach our eighties and older!! Being robbed of our memories must be worse than losing our senses.

    We had a little snow here in Portugal Cove today;however, there is promise of capelin weather and then a few weeks of summer. Fall in NL, remains to be the best season! All the Best!!

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