On October 19, 2009 viral encephalitis attacked my mother’s brain. In a way, that day changed everything. At the time, I was an undergraduate in South Carolina. A business student, D1 distance runner and someone who spoke with her mother every day. It feels like a lifetime ago.
I flew home to find the virus had induced a coma, ultimately lasting 17 days and resulting in extensive damage to her brain’s frontal and temporal lobes. The trauma erased the past decade from Diana’s mind and left her short-term memory severely compromised. My mother, today, at age 56, remembers moments for only minutes after they occur.
This has entirely changed her life; once an independent, working mother of four, Diana has become almost entirely dependent and has a companion caretaker Monday through Friday. Her life is largely “remembered” using a daily journal fondly deemed “the book” where she writes everything from the time she wakes and what is eaten to the events of the day and her passing thoughts. Though she does her best to remain positive, my mother lives a life where she is acutely aware of a once more complete existence.
We are made of our memories. They inform who we are in the present and who we will become in the future. To live in the moment with the recognition you will not remember it in a few hours is something I cannot imagine.
I’ve been documenting my own family for years, focusing on my parents, as they navigate their new roles as dependent and caretake.
I photograph to process and as a way to cope with what I now recognize as a sense of loss. I photograph because I believe in the importance of recording my mother’s story. And I photograph in the attempt that I might someday better understand.