Defining who we are & bringing families and loved ones together
Henry Rankin (Chair of the Scottish Dementia Working Group) wanted to share the following speech that he and his daughter Kirsty gave together at a Forget Me Not ball. Henry stated that the Forget Me Not ball was a fabulous night which he thoroughly enjoyed because it makes you feel like there is something special going on. The speech takes the form of a conversation between Henry and his daughter as they come to terms with his diagnosis of dementia.
Henry: Dementia affects families in different ways. Through my work with the Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG) I have had the pleasure of meeting many people with dementia and each has their own story to share. I too have my own story and my daughter Kirsty and I would like to share our journey with you.
There are many points during your life that make you realise how precious the simplest things are. Take memories for example, every day we say and do things that make up the scrapbooks of our lives.
These scrapbooks define who we are and bring families and loved ones together. But what happens if we lose our scrapbook?
Do we struggle and spend the rest of our days looking to find those pages, grasping on to our past, or do you start a new scrapbook and look to the future?
The truth is, the old book may define who we were but the new one can define who we are now, but more importantly, can you have one without the other?
Kirsty: Each click of the camera captures a second of our life, for that one second when the photo is taken we bank this into our scrapbook. Looking back not only do you see where you were but you suddenly remember how you were feeling. Pictures are more than just still shots of our life, they are moments in time so special that we feel the urge to hold on to them forever.
Henry: With each day that comes I hold onto my scrapbook, frightened that these snap shots of my life are slipping away.
Kirsty: I like to carry my scrapbook as I never want to miss a moment with you. I have come to realise that my scrapbook has now become yours Dad, but without your book mine wouldn’t exist.
Take points in our life Dad, my wedding for one, I can spend hours looking at the picture of you walking me down the aisle. I know how I felt at the time just by looking at the picture.
Henry: I too can look at the picture but it’s not about the details, what I can tell you is that day you made me the proudest man, I have never seen such a beautiful bride. Walking down the aisle and giving you away will forever be embedded in my heart.
Kirsty: What about the picture of us in St. Andrews on the beach?
Henry: I may not remember how many years ago that was but I know in my heart that St. Andrews is a special place for us and when I think of St. Andrews I don’t think about that one moment, I think about the family as a whole. Your mum, Craig, Shona and us laughing and I think about you cheating at cards – you are the only girl I know that can shout ‘Rumie’ straight after you have been dealt the cards.
Kirsty: I was once told that if you make memories no one can take them away. Is this true for you Dad?
If you don’t remember has someone taken them away, if so where are they now?
I hope that deep inside they are imbedded into your being for then I know you haven’t lost me and I haven’t lost you.
Memory is your way of holding onto all of the things that you love, the things that you are and the things you don’t want to lose. And I don’t want to lose you.
Henry: You haven’t lost me. The true value of our moments will be there after undergoing the test of memories. Memories are not just banked into your scrapbook, truly important memories go straight into my heart. I might not be able to let you know or talk about it but please be reassured that no one can take my heart.
Kirsty: I have come to realise that it is not what is in the scrapbook that matters. We can spend our days looking at pictures from the past and worrying about what pictures will be there in the future but I have come to realise that all we are doing is missing our moments just now.
Henry: I do worry about forgetting all the things I have done.
Kirsty: It’s not the things you have done it’s the effects that it has today.
Henry: What about everything I have learned and then forgotten?
Kirsty: It can’t be about what you have learned, but how you have applied it throughout your life.
Henry: What about all the things that I have said?
Kirsty: If you were to take words, surely it is not what was said but how each sentence made those around you feel.
Henry: Each day I make memories and each day some are lost. But losing them does not mean that I have lost you.
Kirsty: If you don’t remember, I will. For what you have given me I will cherish. I have learned from you and followed your example.
You have given your memories that have once moulded you but will in turn mould me.
So I have put away my scrapbook and started to live, for I can remember not to forget.
I don’t need a book, for I see you every time I look in the mirror. And trust me, a scrapbook can’t show how brave I think you are, how strong I think you are or how smart I think you are. I know that even if we were apart and the fog has settled in, I will always be with you tucked away somewhere in your scrapbook and somewhere in mine.
Thank you very much to Henry for generously sharing not only this speech but also the experiences that are behind it and have formed it.
If you have any thoughts or feelings about their speech and blog post, please leave a comment.
Scottish Dementia Working Group (SDWG)
I have been the Chairperson of the SDWG since 2012. At the SDWG we set our aims, objectives and key priorities each year and are involved in many projects to work towards these.