On Jul 14, 2020 by John Doe
In my years of reading, I keep coming across these types of sentences. “When I am old and grey, I could hug this delicious memory for I had once lived through this marvellous experience,” or “Even if I do not ever live the full life, at least I have these beautiful memories to warm me in my golden years”. I had never quite understood what these sentences meant. Well not until I had experienced so much of life that I realised that in the ten thousand days which I had lived, I do not remember every day or even every month. I only remembered some special moments. Only certain memories stand out. And these memories are what keeps me buoyed in the sea of life.
I remembered my first boyfriend with alacrity. He was fair, lanky, had tiny eyes and one crooked tooth which gave his face a lot of character. I remembered my grandmother’s black, sweet coffee which she served in an enamel mug in her dilapidated kitchen in Labis, Johor. I remembered my mother sick on her bed weeping because she knew that she would never get better again. I remembered my dog Barry whom I had to take care every night cleaning his pus-filled mouth. Good and bad memories.
Why does my brain remember all these things? What are memories made of? Why is it that a word, a song, a smell brings to mind times of yesteryears? I suppose that memories are all we have, in a world that is fleeting, memories become an anchor to ourselves in the different times of our lives. In a way, memories make us who we are. They are so much a part of our identity.
So, I wondered, how do I create more lovely memories so that my life becomes more memorable for me and perhaps for others around me. At FiveTies, an organisation dedicated to helping people have wellness, closure and increased happiness with lasting memories, we are constantly talking about how we can create this for people. We genuinely believe that leaving memories for our loved ones is akin to leaving them history.
I had watched the movie Monument Men, a 2014 war movie directed by George Clooney. The movie was loosely based on a non-fiction book which detailed an Allied group from the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program that was given the task of finding and saving pieces of art and other culturally important items before Nazis destroyed or stole them, during World War II. I was particularly moved by this phrase said by the lead actor George Clooney. “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they'll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it's as if they never existed.”
So, helping people preserve memories is important to us. But what memories can we preserve? There are several basic categories of memories which are great for us to tuck away in a video or photos to be given as the gift of lasting memories.
First Experiences – these are so powerful. Cuddling your first pet, your first time in kindergarten, taking the keys to your first car, holding your first baby. All these evoke a powerful emotion in you. And these are also important stories to be told to your loved ones. Record your loved one’s first experiences too because you shared it with them. All these form part of the fabric of what holds you together.
Beautiful sights, sounds and scents- I remembered the glimpse of the UNESCO world heritage Nærøyfjord of Norway and was blown away at the beauty of water flanked by steep cliffs which were carved by glaciers as well as the glacial winds in my hair. Do you remember the sound of the ice cream man who peddled his ice cream and the taste of the tart lemon ice which your mother bought for you? Or the smell of chocolate cookies which your grandmother made every time you went to visit her. These beautiful memories bring nostalgia. Quirkily the word nostalgia is Greek for nostos (return) and algos (pain). A return of pain. Well, in a way, the memory was bittersweet, never to be repeated.
Life’s Peaks and Valleys – One cannot go through life without being ecstatically happy or without being the receiving end of harsh experiences. Sharing happy experiences can double your joy. Sharing sad ones can be cathartic for you and maybe provide some solidarity to others who will surely go through something similar although not quite the same. I personally do not believe that one should only share happy memories. This is because all memories maketh a man. My friend Charlie told me of his horror of finding out that his wife had 4th stage cancer and how he wanted to preserve those memories for his children because they were so young. He believed that they would appreciate it because they could not remember much because of their youth.
Key learnings from life experiences – While we are navigating our own life ship, we sometimes experience life from our own mistakes so that we can learn from it. But why should we do that if we can avoid these pitfalls by listening to those who can help us because they love and know us best. Many parents want to share their key life learnings to their offspring to help them to have a better life. I had wished that my father gave me some of his life learnings before he passed on. He thought that he was going to live a long life. Well he didn’t and sometimes it's best to curate all these so that we can pass them on to the next generation.
All these memories are so precious. Create more stunning ones along the way and share them with people who need them, who would appreciate them. Your life is worth sharing, your story is worth listening to. What would be your lasting words?