Dear future self with dementia,
You don’t know me.
Not right now anyway. Perhaps you might, fleetingly, as you follow this letter, but also perhaps you won’t. That’s okay. Not knowing me, us, so well, gives us some space to dream. Memories can be beautiful, but they can also be constraining. Writing to you makes me realise how insular my life is now, the details I agonise over, past conversations, forgotten items on a shopping list, one drink too many on a Friday, unfinished papers, unfulfilled promises. You don’t remember them; I can’t let them go. To not know or remember oneself, “what could be worse?!” they say, “what could be more freeing?” I reply…
But back to you my future self. Let us think of the possibilities, let me write (y)our future possible. The reins of guilt tie you to a past you don’t remember, a past that treats you like a stranger, starring in through steamed up glass. Let us cut them loose. I give you permission to not remember. You can live here now, in the future. If you don’t remember me, make us someone for today. I’m going to stop telling you who we are.
Let’s give it a go.
I was never particularly fond of our name. I don’t know if you know it, so I won’t put it here. You can call us what you like. What do you, we, feel like today? The sun is shining, illuminating a walled garden, maybe today we are a Marigold? Tomorrow it might be overcast, you, we, are tired, a little pensive and reserved, perhaps a Willow? You see, a little space to dream ourselves each day. It may not be what we thought we wanted, what people tell us we should want, but does that mean there is no joy in it at all?
I know it isn’t all as easy, as pretty as that. I know you’re confused, angry, wary. I know you feel the tug, the tug you are told to feel, to remember me, our family. Take comfort, I feel those things too. Confused, angry, wary. I don’t want that tug to define the next five, ten, years of your life. I don’t want you to be pulled apart by a past no longer tangible. We don’t need you to know us. We know you have loved us. I want you to have a future, a future of your, our own. Future self with dementia, I’m not ready to let the dream die yet, and I’m not ready to let you die with it.
So this is (y)our future, sometimes, on some days it will be so.
It will be the first day of Spring 2070. There will be a walled garden in a nursing home, somewhere in the sticks of South-East England. When the sun hits the flowers and the birds sing, we will sit, you and I, we, us, Marigold. We will close our eyes, feel the first real warmth of the year, and we will be born anew. The following day who knows who we will be, how we will feel, but for that day we will have solace. You, I, the world we knew that we no longer know or need to know.
We are endless possibility Marigold
A sun-drenched walled garden in the sticks of South-East England.
Maddy Pearson is a PhD researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a graduate teaching assistant at Kings College London. Maddy is researching how an era of uncertainty, social, climactic and pandemic, is reflected in local environmental relations that work to challenge authoritative epistemologies of health.