“I won’t remember?” Agnes strained to be able to see her visitor in the chair beside her bed.
The woman in the pale pink shirt shook her head sadly. “No, I’m sorry. If you let me take your memories, you won’t have them anymore. It’ll leave you disoriented. Probably angry. I don’t blame you. But we won’t take the memories unless you give us your permission.”
Agnes laid her head back on her pillow, closing her eyes. Her thin white hair lay around her in half-hearted curls. Her deep wrinkles threatened to swallow her eyes. She took a deep breath and let her gaze sweep the small room. Her hospital bed. The kitchenette in the corner she hardly used. The white marker board mentioning who her aides would be today.
The pictures hung on the wall. Her eyes lingered on an old, old picture of a young woman smiling next to a man who took himself too seriously then. She wore white. He wore a military uniform.
Her hands gripped the sides of her bed. “Well,” she drawled, “I suppose if I don’t give you my memories… I’ll probably end up losing them soon enough anyway. They might as well go somewhere useful.”
A nurse walked by in the hall outside, and the woman in pink tensed for a moment. The footsteps faded, and she relaxed again. “Agnes.” She offered a weak smile. “I’m the reason that everyone thinks memory problems happen. Dementia. Alzheimer’s. It’s me.”
Agnes grabbed some breath. “What now?” She felt her pulse increase. Not much; she didn’t have that many heartbeats left in her.
She looked down at her lap and fidgeted. “I’ve been traveling for a long time. I want to preserve as many memories as I can. I’ve been… I’ve been looking for something specific for a long time. Sometimes I find it. But it’s something we need in the future. So much. And I figure this way, no one will be forgotten. I take your memories back with me to my home. And every memory I bring back with me… it’s honored, Agnes. We don’t put your memories away in a warehouse waiting to die. Your great-great-grandchildren will be able to hug your memory and ask questions and see what it was like before the sky shattered or the earth cracked. Your memories, Agnes. They can bring comfort.” She paused, leaning forward. “Real comfort.”
“But you’re not just making a copy.” Agnes felt the bitterness on her lips. She didn’t look at the woman in pale pink anymore. She looked at that photo of the young woman and the young man.
“No. I have to take your real memories. You won’t have them anymore. I’ll come back many times, taking some here and some there. I can only transport so many at a time. We will see each other many times. Many.”
“That’s what you did with Danny.”
The woman in pink didn’t answer for a long while. She sighed. “Yes. The family that takes care of Danny’s memories… they’ve seen such good, good memories of you. And they asked that I find you.”
“Danny chose to leave? He chose to go with you?”
The woman in the pale pink shirt didn’t respond.
Agnes’s eyes snapped from the picture and to the woman. “I asked you a question. I expect an answer.”
She struggled to find an answer, finally settling on, “I haven’t visited Danny yet in my personal timeline.”
“He died, young woman.” Agnes tasted the bitterness of her words. “Of Alzheimer’s. Six years ago. Hardest thing I ever had to do, take care of him. Do you know what it’s like to bathe your husband of fifty-three years? Do you know what it’s like to have him swear at you, every night, because he thinks you stole his wife away? Do you know what it’s like to watch someone forget their children?” She swallowed. “To forget me?” She refused to cry. Not here. Not in front of this woman. “I watched him disappear, one memory at a time. Until he forgot how to breathe. And now you’re telling me he chose that? What kind of fool chooses a death like that?”
“Agnes,” the woman’s voice pleaded, “I don’t know why he went with me, because for me, I haven’t visited him yet. And if you tell me to go, I’ll go. I’ll only take the memories of my visit, nothing more.”
Agnes lay for a long time, not speaking.
“I choose to come to the old because I’m least likely to disrupt time. When I first discovered I could find folds, I thought I’d try to prevent… what happens. And it never turned out well.” She looked down. “It’s almost like there’s already the best plan in place, and I just mess it up. But we need… we need a light, Agnes. It’s so, so dark where I’m from. And this way, there’s a light. This way, you’re remembered, and you can do so much good.”
“You mean my memories can.”
“You can’t just take me.”
“I can’t figure out how to fold anyone else with me. I’ve tried. Believe me.”
They were silent for a while.
The woman in pale pink checked a device on her wrist. “Agnes, if I don’t go soon, I’ll miss the fold I need to step through. I want to take your memories, but I need your permission. I need your decision.”
“Young woman, I expect more respect from someone so much younger than me.” Agnes shook her head. “You come in here, offer to take away my memories, make me a hollow shell, and tell me you took my husband, too, but won’t tell me why you took him. And then you jabber on like the nurses talking to each other about things I can’t comprehend. And then you tell me to hurry up.”
“I don’t believe that for a minute.”
“There’s not much more I can tell you.”
Agnes sighed. “They actually pay attention to memories there?”
“Every memory finds a home. Every memory is honored. There’s such light here that we don’t have.”
The woman in the pale pink shirt shifted. “Well… like memories of Jesus.”
Agnes blinked. “No Bibles out there?”
“The printed word… doesn’t do well in the environment I come from. But the memories of it… those we can preserve.”
“Are you saying what you’re really asking me to be is a missionary?”
The woman thought for a moment. “Yes. If I am remembering what that word is correctly, yes.”
Agnes chuckled. “I wish you’d told me that sooner. I know why Danny left, then. He always did want to go on a missions trip. And if you told him I’d be going with him, well…”
Lose who you are, just like Danny.
Forget your own name. Forget your husband’s face. Be angry and scared all the time.
Do all that… to share Jesus with a world that doesn’t know him?
Well… really, it’s not that much to sacrifice, is it? The nursing home here… it’s not home. Not really.
Time to be a light in the darkness.
She closed her eyes. “Do me a favor? Leave me the Psalms until the last?”
“If I can control that, I will.”
“All right, then. Take me to the mission field. Ain’t no one listening to me here. Might as well go where the Word can be spread.”
And the woman in the pale pink shirt gave a smile, an honest smile, and her eyes shone with almost-shed tears. “Thank you. Thank you, Agnes.”