Excerpt: 'Absent Memories'

Beki Propst has no memory of the first 47 years of her life. She doesn't remember becoming a black belt or being married. She doesn't remember going to school or any of her family members, because 11 years ago, a seizure wiped her memory bank clean.

Propst, now 57, has written a book about her ordeal called "Absent Memories." Read more about her story here and check out an excerpt of her book below.


My sister was pointing at pictures in the old family photo album.

"Here's Peter. You never went anywhere without that little stuffed elephant. Remember?"

"Here you are as the Statue of Liberty on the float Dad made when he ran for the state legislature. Remember?"

"I don't know what you were working on here. You were always building something in the shop on the ranch. Remember?"

"Here's that red convertible. Dad was so proud of it. We hated it; we had to bend over to keep our hair from getting messed up. Remember?"

"Take a look at these hair styles! We really thought we looked gorgeous. Remember?"

"Here you are working on Dad's prototype timber harvester. Everyone called you 'Rosie the Riveter' then. Remember?"

"You managed that quick copy franchise for two years. Remember?"

"Here you are running the Marine Corps marathon in Washington, DC. Remember?"

"Here we all are at your final test for your black belt. Remember?"

"That's an article you wrote when you got back from your trip to Bolivia when you were in the National Guard. Remember?"

I tried to act interested, but I didn't remember any of them. They were images of the life of a stranger.

"Forget the past." "Live in the present." "All we have is this moment in time." The sages who spout these snippets of conventional wisdom are clueless. They have no concept how important every single past experience is to a meaningful present.

Nine years ago, just before my 47th birthday, I was starting to get re-acquainted with myself. On Halloween, 1997, I had my last grand mal seizure. I don't remember anything of my life prior to that time, and memories of the following few months are fuzzy and selective. Most people with seizures experience some memory loss, but rarely is it as comprehensive as mine. It wasn't like forgetting where I put my keys. I no longer had any experiences, friends, or identity. I no longer had a past.

I was an adult, but the world was new to me. I'd have to rebuild my life on the slippery foundation of the present. My success would depend on my insatiable curiosity, my intense survival instinct, my good health, and the ability I still had to read, write and learn.