More Remembering and Forgetting

By Emma Pearson

May 25, 2024

1st October 2019

Way too-close for comfort image courtesy of Sarah Treanor @

Megan Devine WYG prompt using this passage from Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” as a jumping off point:
“Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever,” he said. “You might want to think about that.”
“You forget some things, don’t you?”
“Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”

“You forget what you want to remember
You remember what you want to forget”

How disappointing
How upsetting
I beg to differ, at least in part
Literally, I beg that this not be true
That the truth be different

For the longest time I have actively worked at “making memories”
I realise now that that idea works when you have time
When you know that people will die –
Die before you do, that is
Either because they are flipping old
Or because they are ill and you know it’s terminal

I work at making music memories of my dad with piano-and other instrument playing

I work at making smell memories of my mum with essential oils, cooking and all sorts of health-building activities

I worked at making memories of each of the three grand-parents who were alive during my child- and early adult-hood – I can still smell my granny May and sense the feel of her cheeks in my hands

I worked at making memories with Don – talking of hearts in nature and appreciating our simple love

With Ed – his self-deprecating humour, his knowledge of world affairs, his appreciation of just frigging being alive

And of course Mike – the feel and smell of his skin, the blue of his eyes, the softness of his greying hair, his voice, his accent, his terms of endearment for me, his nicknames for the kids, his joie de vivre and ability to just “be”, even as his being was draining away

But with Julia?
I never thought about it
I never thought I would need to
I wish I had captured more in my mind’s eye
I wish I had more footage of her life

There is so much I want to remember
And there is so much I want to forget

I want to remember her impishness, her throaty voice, her tendency as a young child to sound somewhat like Edith Piaf when she sang (she had nodules for a while on her vocal chords)

I want to remember her incessant energy, the life that coiled and sprang up within her, about her

I want to remember her brilliant, years-older-than-her-age wisdom, her ability to see through “crap”, and just say things that pulled me up short, forcing me to see things with different eyes

I want to remember her indignation for the bad behaviour she saw in some of the teacher population at her school, and the voice she used to express outrage for the abuse of others’ rights

I want to remember the shape of her beautiful body as she grew and developed into a gorgeous, if hurting, young woman

I want to remember images of her cuddling Black the dog, scooped around him in any room in the house, barely bigger than his length

I want to remember how so many of her friends, boys and girls alike, would show up, announced or unannounced, and just hang out in our messy house

I want to remember how she bounced helter-skelter down mountains on skis or a snowboard

I want to remember how she swiped through the ice of an ice-rink, spinning dangerously close to the edge of control, laughing as she caught yet another fall just in time

I want to remember her athletic and acrobatic and gymnastic and swimming and dancing abilities – whether on a uni-cycle, a bike, roller-blades, on a gym mat, on a trampoline, or in a pool

I want to remember the beauty of her art, on paper, wood or on skin

The vibrancy that she saw in the world even when she didn’t see it in herself

I want to remember her eyes, her skin, her lips, her tousled hair, her exceptional curves

I want to remember so much, so much more

And I want to forget so much too…

The short video clips she’d send me of her having done yet more cutting, and the fear that mounted so rapidly in my chest and throat

The texts enquiring if everything was okay with Julia, that I received from a couple of friends and their families the night she wandered off “just for a bit”

The image of her Snapchat whereabouts, frozen, immortalised in a friend’s phone, showing me exactly where she was last on her phone, and instantly knowing what that location meant

The too many times I saw her bare skin, cut red and raw, sometimes with stitches

The time she asked me calmly, one Sunday night at bed time, to just please, please take her back to hospital so she could live there, so that she’d not need to make any decisions or do anything – and the physical sickness it brought on in me

I want to forget the post 11pm phone call I received while in Gothenburg, talking with Nelly, as she rode with Julia by ambulance, sirens wailing through the night, to emergency services after yet another pill overdose

I want to forget the fear and anguish of that entire night and next day till any of us were able to make decisions

I want to forget the time she came back from the psychiatric unit with four piercings in each ear lobe and four small tattoos on her arm.

I want to obliterate my mind of the sight of her laid down in the ambulance, and the gentle moving of the blanket by the emergency doctor who was called to the site, (the doctor who also happened to be the GP who’d seen me through all of my pregnancies and who knew just who I was, who Julia was, who had come on the 6th March 2017 when Mike thought he was having a heart attack, and therefore what all of this now meant, the dots joining in her mind at 1 am in the morning); the gentle moving of the blanket so I could see Julia’s face… and then the gentle moving of her clothes so I could see the markings of the rope that had taken her breath away

I want to forget images my brain conjures up of that night, the threatening storm that was everywhere except our village – would she have gone out if it had been rainy? I cannot think about that

I want to forget the sensing I have of her panic, her fear, her determination, her courage, her desperation to die battling with everyone’s natural desperation to live

I want to forget the whole experience of having to “manage her body viewing” at the funeral home

I want to forget the whole aftermath of 30th June 2019

It makes me feel sick

And it makes sick that I want to forget so much

It is so very hard to remember the good when there is so much that was so hard

I don’t know how I will find peace in my memories of Julia

About Emma Pearson

2 thoughts on “More Remembering and Forgetting

  1. Peace, maybe not or, at least, not just yet. You feel so deeply in such minute detail all you know and remember of Julia, while some
    of of us are left with mere fragments of such a powerful, stoical personality.
    But, at least when my medium/ Reflexologist visits, Julia comes too with comforting words of love and promises to help and stay by her Gran and closest cousins for ever.
    Thank you, Julia,

  2. You are brave to write all this out. You take me away from my own pain to feel yours. I am thinking of the horrors I witnessed but have not written about. I’ve put them away, but they’re part of me. I know that. Will it be easier if I start the excavation again, bring back Ira’s awful, mysterious last months and me alone with it, despite three doctors, despite our three grown children and their children?

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