Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

by Damien Echols

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Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby Liz » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:10 pm

Pg. 299: You’d be amazed at all the little things that you begin to remember when there are no new experiences to distract you?

Imagine yourself in his shoes. What would you remember?

How did remembering things help Damien? Or did they?

You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:57 pm

I'm at work, and can't easily answer right now, but I think this is a great question.

What would I remember? First my childhood, second all the times I was lucky enough to be outdoors and feel the wind, the sun, the scent of things growing and decaying. We return to the pure experiences. I'd read a little bit online about prisoners in isolation and one thing that's always mentioned is the night sky. The ability to see stars and the moon. It's stunning really -- we are exactly the same as our forefathers in wanting access to those things that tell us we are alive.

I'll come back later.
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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby MaggyCutler » Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:54 pm

Damien seemed to cherish the good memories and going on what he wrote, he used them to his benefit, to help calm his mind and his soul. I think he also used the bad memories, from his child hood especially to try to come to grips with his past and use them. Like being afraid of being a father, he didn't know how.

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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby Liz » Thu Dec 06, 2012 5:44 pm

MaggyCutler wrote: I think he also used the bad memories, from his child hood especially to try to come to grips with his past and use them. Like being afraid of being a father, he didn't know how.

Interesting point. It is sad that he couldn't really learn how, being inside.

Firefly, what resonated with me was the idea of not being able to experience things such as the stars and the moon - things we take for granted.

It makes you step back a bit and realize that every day is a gift, and we should experience it to its fullest - stop to smell the roses, as it were. Easier said than done sometimes in our busy lives. :-/
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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby Fern » Thu Dec 06, 2012 6:50 pm

I would remember life. I would remember what all those things feel like that make us human - the feel of a breeze on my face, the feel of another's touch, the smell of the crisp fresh air, how it feels to walk on grass or sand or snow. Really basic things like that. Then I would remember good times I'd shared with people and what it felt like to have that connection with another person. If my life had been taken away from me, I'd have to find a way to live a different kind of life, in an internal world lived through memories. I think that this, along with fantasies, would be important to keep going and to keep sane. It's hard to express what I mean, but if you were in a situation where you were made to feel less than human - by having everything that makes you human stripped away - then it's the humanising things you'd remember, to try to counteract that. Memories help you hold on to the person that you were and not slip into a mere soulless existence.

I think I wouldn't want to remember too many bad things. Although, if it is possible to work through some things and use that time to make peace with things, then it can be of benefit.

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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:56 pm

I wonder if under those circumstances memories become exaggerated? I know that sometimes if I am angry or frightened and I start to run things over and over in my mind, I can whip myself into a complete frenzy over something small -- kind of the mountain out of mole hill thing......I am not sure I would trust myself. Lately I have had a couple of dreams that were so vivid I thought they were reality, which is a new and scary thing for me.

It is hard to answer this without being in that situation.

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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby Fern » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:12 pm

nebraska wrote:I wonder if under those circumstances memories become exaggerated? I know that sometimes if I am angry or frightened and I start to run things over and over in my mind, I can whip myself into a complete frenzy over something small -- kind of the mountain out of mole hill thing.

yes, I do this too. I've kept myself awake for hours working myself up over something that, in the morning, I realise is much smaller an issue than it was last night. I can cry for hours over something that later seems so tiny.
Also, talking to someone about some upsetting memory can make you realise that it's a lot less of a big deal than you thought, or, even if it IS as bad as you thought, talking to someone still provides you with a release or even closure. Damien didn't have that and had to work through every memory on his own. I imagine writing them down helped in a similar way to talking them through.

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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:02 pm

I think Damien used memories in the best way possible. As he said, lack of other things to think about, what you remember becomes more and more detailed.

I used to keep a number of dream journals years ago. In the beginning I would wake up and write a few lines. But over time my capacity to remember my dreams expanded to the point that I could write three or four pages with incredible detail, and I could find two or three dreams on a given night. I have kept all my old journals and even today, I use the old dream memories to inspire my writing.

I use memory in general in my writing. Our minds store so much more than we draw upon. Try it. Start writing about some time in your past. Add something whenever you remember it. More and more memories will surface. It doesn't have to be a painful or important thing.

Any old thing. For example, when I was five...Set down the bare bones, and start describing where you slept, and what you saw out the window at night, and what the air felt like in the summer or the cold of the floor in the winter. Remember your friends, their faces, the missing front teeth, etc. Remember the smell of chalk, the taste of that white glue the teacher used, the feel of your hair in braids. You may end up so enjoying the experience of writing that it ends up being an activity you turn to for relaxation. It becomes something you save and share.

I think in prison memories become an alternate room. You walk into 'age five or nine' and you shut the door. It is far better to use the mind to create pleasure than pain. And I bet that's a lesson that took time to learn, but I get the sense that Damien's a fairly disciplined person and he worked at making good use of the freedom he had -- his mind.
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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby Snowcat » Sat Dec 08, 2012 8:58 am

Oh, I would have a long time to sit and think! Since I tend to think about past events frequently, I know I would likely mentally go over my whole life and the people who were in it, long term and short term.

Did Damien's memories help him? I am not sure. His book is so full of detail about his life inside prison and his life before, alternating between the two, that I forget whether he mentioned what impact his memories had on him, but if you are asking me what I think, here's what I imagine he may have thought.

One the one hand, sweet memories, those that take you back to a place and time where you didn't have a care in the world and were at peace can do wonders to calm you when your present situation is very unpleasant. (eg. I take mental holidays like this when I am in the dentist's chair.)

On the other hand, his memories of freedom, remembering what his favorite foods taste like, what being outside in winter is like, seeing the sky and the stars and feeling the grass, being with good friends and his GF and son, etc., may have also been torturous. I guess, most especially after his friends moved on with their lives and seemed to forget about him. There were times when he felt completely hopeless and trapped, believing that the day they execute him is coming, so believing that he will never experience these everyday, but nice things, ever again, may have made him very depressed.
In fact, didn't he at one point write something about trying to find a way to kill himself?!!
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Re: Life After Death Question #10 - Memories

Unread postby Liz » Tue Dec 11, 2012 4:11 pm

Snowcat wrote:Oh, I would have a long time to sit and think! Since I tend to think about past events frequently, I know I would likely mentally go over my whole life and the people who were in it, long term and short term.

I would do that too.

I think that probably sometimes the memories helped him and calmed him, and at other times they probably depressed him. I think that is probably the way it would be for me. But it is hard to say. When one is in such a hopeless situation, such as Damien, the memories combined with fantasies (as Fern put it) could be used as a way of just going to a different place in your head as an escape from the reality that you are in.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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