'The memory thief became a regular visitor, taking pieces of my grandma.'

12 year old A'yaan won first prize in his school's public speaking competition. He wrote this emotional piece about his grandmother, who has Alzheimer's disease. We have published A'yaan's piece here completely unedited.

A'yaan and his grandmother

A'yaan (aged two) with his grandmother.

Piece by Piece

By A’yaan Abdul-Mughis, aged twelve

She was a formidable woman was my grandma. A zoologist to the science world. A teacher to her students. An author to her readers. But for me, she was just plain old grandma.

MY grandma. Who was always busy rustling up something or other in the kitchen. I would lay the table and she would ladle piles of steaming hot food into dishes, which we would just about find room for on the massive mahogany table. Then we would all gather round to eat and listen to grandma’s stories. And this is how it was for years. My high chair became a booster seat and the booster seat gave way to a smart carver chair at the head of the table. But the food and the stories never changed.

Thinking back, it must have been one of those days, when we were all sat together round the table. Loving. Laughing. Living. That an uninvited guest came in, unbeknownst to us, and stole a piece of my grandma. Just like that. She didn’t notice, and neither did we but the memory thief had reached in and taken the first small piece.

“Where have I put my glasses?” said Grandma for the third time that evening.

“They’re on your nose, grandma,” I said for the third time that evening.

But still we didn’t realise that she was losing her memory. Piece by insidious piece.

Months and years passed. The memory thief became a regular visitor, taking pieces of my grandma. Leaving holes. Holes that if they had been empty would have been kinder. But he left them filled with confusion, isolation, desperation. Piece by nostalgic piece.

Unravelling the rich magnificent tapestry which had taken eighty years to become a unique masterpiece. The memory thief kept pulling and pulling at the fringes and now my grandma is threadbare and worn out. Just a fragment of what she was. Piece by pathetic piece.

And now the memory thief must be sitting somewhere dangling his legs and rubbing his hands with glee.

“I’ve deleted her memory bank and stripped her of her self. Her family could do nothing to stop me and now, huh, I’ll start on someone else.” He’s cruelly counting the pieces of my grandma. Piece by beautiful piece.

“What will you do with all those pieces?” I want to scream at him. “It was bad enough that you took my grandma away from me. But did you have to take her away from herself leaving a broken shell? Drained of memories, thoughts and words.”

Piece by piece.

Piece by painful piece.

A'yaan's grandmother

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Sad story beautifully told which will resonate with many

Thank you

The Memory Thief poem is so moving and a testament to the love she cultivated in her family. Such a lovely Grandson to remember her however sadly in such a wonderful poignant piece.

I want to congratulate A’yaan on writing such a heartfelt story of “The Memory Thief” - the story tells more than lists and articles about Alzheimer’s Disease. It is powerful and brilliant - keep writing A’yaan to let everyone know!

I am still stemming the tears from my eyes. One of the most moving pieces I have ever read, and not just about Dementia . This moving, human story is becoming increasingly common.

I run a Dementia Café so I see what this young, gifted writer has described so poignantly.

The story is endeed very sad especially to those of us who have lost loved ones to the Memory Thief, but we must not lose hope that one day , very soon, the Memory Thief will be locked away for good and will never be free to cause so much unhapiness and death to any of us.

A dementia cafe? What exactly is offered? I’d like to bring my mom there and was thinking about starting a gathering place where she could meet friends who have difficulty with memory and many other cognitive abilities, just don’t know where to start

Hello Sebrina,
You can read more about Dementia Cafés here:
And here are some articles about different Cafés that you might find interesting:
Feel free to contact the National Dementia Helpline for further information about Dementia Cafés. Our advisers are available seven days a week on 0300 222 11 22: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline
We hope this helps!
Alzheimer's Society blog team

Such a moving story. I just went through this loosing my husband piece by piece. Everything out of your control. Just watching it happen, piece by loving piece.

That is so poignant and an apt description of what happens to loved ones with dementia. The memories of our loved will always be in our hearts . Thank you

What an amazing piece and from one so young. A'yaan has obviously inherited his grandma's skill for writing. Be proud young man.

A very moving story but sadly so true. A very fitting name for the thief.

So very true, but we think it won’t happen to any of us.x

Sadly- the Memory Thief if now at my house. He has attached himself to my wonderful, beautiful, and very intelligent wife. She's 56, healthy, full of life, mother of two daughters and a resent grandmother. He starts out subtly, non alarming to us around her daily, until one day confusion entered the picture. She knows exactly what's transpiring, runs the gauntlet of emotions daily. Questioning.... why me! Grasping for any and everything available to put the Memory Thief at bay; modern medicines, holistic approach, physical exercise, mental exercises, yoga, ti-chi, and PRAYER. She's a fighter, but the Memory Thief is a worthy opponent. Many have fought with him, and his retaliation is to steal more; take away a person dignity, self-pride, and hope. Until you're in a situation as such, you don't know the toil this takes on a person and their loved ones. I hope and Pray we find a cure that will one day bind this terrible disease. aka "Memory Thief"
Please pray for all whom are effected by this disease!

Thanks for sharing your sad and touching story

In what way can I help this sad illness I am a calligrapher and would like to do a peice of calligraphy for the Alzheimer’s would that help to raise more awareness of this illness

A heart breaking story beautifully told

Very poignant but extremely powerful and moving description of what Dementia does to people

What a thoughtful and powerful poem which vividly reflect the way dementia destroys someone you love.

I've been visiting my wife in her Care Home for well over a year now and have got to 'know' some of the other inmates. The slow destruction of minds is awful to witness. I applaud the Carers whose patience and gentleness is sometimes very touching. Humanity needs to be kind to people who suffer.

What a moving piece of writing. The memory thief has attacked my dad and sadly now my mum.

Thank you A'yaan, for sharing such a moving and poignant piece of writing. I'm certain that your story will resonate in the heart of anyone who has encountered this cruel disease in their own life, as it did mine. I know that you will keep loving and cherishing your dear grandma and treasure the many beautiful memories she made for you and your wider family during happier times. May God continue to bless you and keep you strong!

I have memory problems, so forgive me if I have already told you what I think about Dementia. A person with dementia is not "out of it" as I have so often heard said. He or she has lifetime feelings, emotions and memories, but the condition of dementia disables the ability to clearly recall and express past and present feelings and memories. I describe it like threads of string or wire getting broken or lost on the way out of their memory records. I so saddly recall the struggle my Stepmother who suffered from dementia had in verbally expressing her fondness for me.

A wonderfully written essay, piece by piece

would I be able to print out this lovely story for our Clinic's Dementia notice board Thanks

Wonderful writing which resonates with me and probably everyone who has had a close one suffer from this disease.
So impressed with this piece. Love to him and his family.

Man that's beautifully written. But very painful for me to read.

How very beautiful and sadly I can identify with each sad sentence.... beautifully written.... your grandmother is proud I’m sure.... this is for all grandmothers grandfathers mothers fathers sons daughters nieces nephews cousins dear friends who have piece by piece been taken by this dreadful disease

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