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Memories Were My Fuel to Stay Alive as I Battled COVID-19

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“People’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. To the fire, they’re nothing but scraps of paper. It’s the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories; there’s no distinction — they’re all just fuel.” –Haruki Murakami, “After Dark”

One of my favorite singers, Wes Eisold of the modern-day goth band Cold Cave, posted this quote by Haruki Murakami recently. It’s been on my mind ever since as I often think about my fight for life.

Fifty-three days in a hospital bed where I never had the strength to even take a single shower in that time. The use of high-flow oxygen and high-powered drugs helped keep me alive. But my positivity, patience, zero fear, and my quest to keep the negativity away also helped me to survive.

When I think about this quote, it helps me recognize what a strong part my memories played in living.

I heard from dozens of people during this saga. Many of them I was reconnecting with for the first time in many years. The common thread to all these conversations was that we talked about things that had happened in the past. Good times, bad times, times I felt the need to apologize for; it didn’t matter as the memories were keeping me moving forward. I thought of things I hadn’t thought of in decades. I’m sure it often made no sense why I was even bringing some of these memories up.

Music was the center point of my survival. I literally listened to music non-stop the entire time I was hospitalized. For years, I have said that music is my therapy, and I’ve heard it said that music is one of the keys to unlocking your brain’s deepest memories, as music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that plays in our head. Well, that movie played non-stop throughout my entire hospitalization.

Music kick-started thousands upon thousands of memories that ranged anywhere from the previous week to 50 years earlier. It allowed me to savor what a complicated, painful, yet good life I have had. I quickly understood that if my life was ending, that was OK, as I could truly say that I’d lived it to the fullest. But the gravitation to memories generated the understanding that it was worth fighting for my life to continue.

So, fight is what I did.

I stayed in this positive state of recollection the entire time I was in that hospital bed. I’d tell stories to any staff that entered my room, or with any friends that visited, called, or texted with me, especially appreciating those people that actively engaged in the trips down memory lane with me. It all must have seemed bizarre. But there was much more to it, as these memories were the scraps of paper for the fuel that was keeping me alive.

Follow this journey on Ten Thousand Days.

This story originally appeared on Ten Thousand Days.

Originally published: June 21, 2022
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