Recently I attended a caregiver's conference hosted by the Alzheimer's Association. This is the same conference I spoke at last year and I was looking forward to spending the day learning and connecting with people who share my story.
But for some reason, as soon as I walked into the conference I became overwhelmed with emotion. Everything I saw - the wives and husbands walking their partners to respite care, the brochures for nursing homes - broke my heart. When the organizer of the conference asked how my mom was doing and all I could do was stare at her with tears in my eyes and shake my head, I knew it was going to be a tough morning.
Of course, against my better judgement, I decided to sit at a table right smack in the middle of the conference room. As soon as the keynote speaker opened her mouth - with a song called "Help Me" no less - the dam broke and I started to cry. Not a couple tears here or a lump in my throat there, but buckets and buckets of tears.
I knew it was probably cathartic but it was also SO embarrassing. Thank God I hadn't been asked to speak!
When I asked Bill to go see a documentary about dementia and music at the Belcourt with me yesterday, you can imagine how excited he must have been.
A joyous cinematic exploration of music's capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity, ALIVE INSIDE chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country living with Alzheimer’s and dementia who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. Following social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory and visiting family members who have witnessed the miraculous effects of personalized music on their loved ones, the filmmaker offers an uplifting cinematic exploration of music and the mind.
"We're going to cry, aren't we?" Bill asked nervously.
I brought tons of tissue and we sat in the very back row of the theater. I cried from the second the trailers started until the panel finished the discussion at the end of the film.
Then we ran straight to the Apple store and bought a mini iPod to put all my mom's music on.
This movie is incredible. The idea is that no matter how withdrawn or sick or dead someone might seem, somewhere inside is passion and life and love that can be tapped into with music. Pretty amazing.
You see it happen again and again in the film and every time it is just beautiful. The power of music to reignite memory and connect people to who they are... the whole thing just blew me away.
I've seen this first hand with my mom. She loves music so when my sister and I are with her, we instinctively fill the house with her favorite songs (not sure if my dad does this or not but I bet he will now). It lights her up and makes everything feel so much better. It's how my sister and her husband were able to give my mom a mani/pedi the last time they visited (well, that and they're AWESOME). They just played some of her favorite tunes on one of their iPhones and she followed the music wherever it went.
I am excited to see what it's like for her with headphones. That's how they share music with people in the movie. At first I wondered if it would be less isolating if everyone could hear the music, but then I thought about what it's like to listen to music on headphones. It's a completely different experience. Like a personal soundtrack that kind of takes over. And I think that's the point.
If you're in Nashville, the Belcourt is showing the movie a few more times as part of their Doc-tober series. I encourage you to see it. It is uplifting, powerful and (to put a spin on the whole buckets of tears thing...) highly cathartic.