Memories, Like Butterflies

I’ve been obsessing about digital storage.

Up late on review sites trying to find the best backup drive.

All my precious files from computers, from phones: images, photos, MP3’s, Word documents, PDFs… but really, memories, ideas, accomplishments… love.

My files are perhaps even more sacred than my memories because they’re likely to be more accurate. And more vivid.

Digital treasures.

Pictures of me and my friends: people once healthy, now sick and whithering; people in love, now split and suffering; hands that will never clasp together; houses before the remodel; forests before the fire…

My kids. At 2, 3, 4, 5… 13, 14, 15. Precious seconds captured. And my mom, fading like her photographs, becoming less recognizable in speech and appearance.

I have to save them all.

But, in all my frantic research, I realize there is something more going on here: my mind is trying to get somewhere, spinning and whirring, and my heart is at risk, electrical currents looping and accelerating, closing in.

I get it now.

It’s the loss, the dark patch that’s spreading, the thought of not having those people, of forgetting the birthday where we dressed up as fairy tale characters, of losing the searching blue eyes of my mom, of never riding through the thick green treeline of the Sierras, ever again. In my lifetime.

It hurts, and I can’t stop it. The more I look, the more it hurts.

There are some finish lines that won’t budge and some demons that never stop chasing us.

Try as I might, in gathering up my backup files — these memories, these beloved moments, organized into neat little folders, compressed into albums like butterflies — no matter how hard I stare at them, no matter how many wishes I wish, I can’t get them to flutter back into life.