by Shanna Klahn
Alzheimer’s. The disease I'll never forget.
Growing up with a grandfather a thousand miles away was never an easy thing to swallow, but it went down a little sweeter with regular visits and phone calls. But the day he started to forget me is one I’ll always remember.
My grandfather lived with Alzheimer’s for over seven years before he passed away. In those seven years he forgot his wife, his children, and his grandchildren. My grandfather was gone, and in his place there was an empty shell of the successful businessman he once was. Alzheimer’s is a swift disease. It’s as gentle as the tide rolling in, but it pulls people under as fast as a rip tide. One day he was there, the next he was gone.
The time I spent with only a lingering presence of my grandfather taught me many things about life, but most importantly it taught me to cherish every moment. Not only to cherish it, but to document it. Documentation, it includes a moment, a flash, a click of the shutter. And just like that, a moment can last forever.
My ever-developing love of photography has become somewhat of a nuisance to some, and to others just another stitch in the fabric of who I am. But to me, it’s about remembering the little things in life – the happy moments, the moments that made you smile, the moments that changed your life.
With this has come the realization that I can’t live my life from behind a camera lens. It’s okay to snap a few pictures, but it’s also important to remember to put the camera down. A mantra that runs through my mind: take a picture, put the camera down, be in the moment. Without the picture, I may not remember, but with only pictures I won’t remember what it was like to actually be there. There is a fine balance between the two.
Alzheimer’s Disease has always been a prevalent part in my family’s history, so one day I too may start to forget and memories may begin to fade away. I don’t take these pictures out of fear; I take them and continue to take them because not only will they be a personal reminder to me of all the wonderful moments life has presented me with, but they will remind my future children and grandchildren how loved they were.
I know this because I cling to the pictures I have of my grandfather. Photographs hold the power to document moments and emotions in a way nothing else can. Even when my memory is gone I want the people in my photographs to know they were so important to me that I tired my best to remember not to forget them.