Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

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Cherish Your Memories

Toastmasters is an organization that helps improve public speaking skills and develop positive leadership qualities.  I am proud to be a member of this organization.  Here is my speech I presented this week.

Memories. Cherish Them.

Hold Them As If They Will Last Forever.

Each of us holds memories that are unique to us alone.  These memories are glimpses into our past and offer hope and guidance for our future.  Memories.  Cherish them.  Hold on to them as if they could last forever.  Unfortunately, some people lose their memories.  A condition known as amnesia can wipe away memories from a day, a few months or even a lifetime.  In more drastic cases, surgeons have to remove a section of the brain that holds a patient’s memories.  Cherish the memories that you have.

There was a man who had just turned 56.  He was an amazing craftsman with wood.  From a tree, he could make nearly anything.  This had been his hobby and later his livelihood.  One day he woke up with no recollection of his past.  Early in therapy he was handed a piece of wood.  He slowly, cautiously, picked it up after staring at it for a while.  He lifted it to test its weight.  He rubbed his hand over it to feel its texture.  He was startled when he received a splinter.  This man had lost all memories of the look and feel of wood.  He had spent his entire life building a career that was no longer possible to continue.  If you have no memories of the past, on what do you base your future?  How do you continue and create new memories?  Imagine working your entire life to become successful in a field, and then waking to have no recollection of the job you did.  How do you earn a living? How do you make a new life?  Cherish your memories.

I have often heard ladies say they wished they could forget about the delivery stage of pregnancy.  I have heard many more say that pregnancy was not too bad until those last few weeks.  If they could just erase those memories and the delivery, too….that would be so nice.  I have even heard men say they wished they could erase the delivery images from their mind.  Yuck! They did not need to see their wife’s body do that!  But, what if you would lose that memory?  What if you would not remember the birth of your children?  If they brought kids into your room and told you that you had them, but you never remembered being pregnant, how does that change who you are as a mother?  As a human, to have a large milestone such as this wiped from your memory how does that change who we are?  Cherish the memories even the memories that are painful, even the ones that are not pleasant.  Hold on to them as if you would never have to let them go.

In more drastic cases, a surgeon needs to remove the memory section of a brain.  There is a documented case of a young violinist.  She was a child prodigy.  She played at concert halls all over making amazing music until the surgeons called her parents in for test results.  They had found a tumor.  It was located over what appeared to be the memory section holding music.  They would need to remove that portion of her brain.  Without any other options, they sent this brave little girl into surgery.  The surgery was successful.  She was sent home to recover.  One day, she asked her dad to bring in her violin.  He said no. He tried to explain that she was not yet strong enough.  In truth, he could not bear to explain to this young child that her memory of music was gone and she would no longer have the ability to perform the music she had once played.  Whether she loved it or loathed it, she had practiced hours each day, but would no longer have the ability to play.  No, you are not quite ready.  She continued to ask again and again.  Finally, the father gave in and brought the violin to her bed.  He placed the bow beside it.  Her head was wrapped tightly with a scarf as she picked up the violin and tucked it tightly beneath her chin.  She picked up the bow.  She looked at the bow and then the violin.  She looked at the bow again and then the violin.  She finally looked up at her father.  He knew now was the time to explain it to her.  But how do you explain to your young daughter that everything she knew about this joy in her life was gone?  All of the memories she had once cherished were no longer hers to hold.  How do you explain this when we, as adults, cannot comprehend the confusion of this loss?  He never needed to explain it at all.  To his awe and the awe of the medical staff, she looked once more from the bow to the violin and very slowly began to pull it across the strings.  At first, she is awkward and clumsy.  Soon though, her beautiful music began to fill the air.  Her brain had known of the damage it was experiencing and moved the musical memory into a new area.  These memories of music were still hers to hold onto and cherish forever.

Another young lady had to have a section of her hippocampus removed.  The neurosurgeon explained to her this section held all general memories.  Upon awakening, they did not know what memories may be lost.  She went home that day.  She took out a pen and a notebook.  Slowly at first, and then frantically, she began to write: This is my name.  These are parents. This is my family now.  This is a map of my neighborhood.  This is what I like.  This is what I enjoy.  This is what scares me!  She wrote down all the memories that she needed to cherish.  She wrote down everything she wanted desperately to hold on to.  Her surgery was fairly successful.  The doctor came to her room timidly when she was waking.  He asked, “Do you know your name?  Do you know where you are?  Can you tell us where you grew up?”  And she knew! She was able to hold onto all of her memories as if she had never lost anything.  Her brain, too, had known of the damage that had been done. It moved the memories before the surgeons had the opportunity to remove the small piece of her brain.  Cherish your memories.  Whether they are bitter or sweet,  remember all the memories that make you who you are today.

I feel as if I can speak on great authority as to why you should cherish these memories.  I, I am the mother that no longer remembers having my children.  I, I am the patient that is missing a piece of my brain yet has a notebook of things I never want to forget.  Cherish your memories.  Hold onto them all.  I hope that you will never have to let them go.

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