By 2007, my mom could no longer communicate due to her continued decline from dementia. Around that time, I had been reading about the idea that music could evoke memory in Alzheimer’s patients. Petr Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California concluded, “What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in their head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and they might all of a sudden see that person’s face in their mind’s eye.” It is a part of the brain that is the last to deteriorate from the disease.
I found this concept interesting given my mom’s love for music. Ever since reading this study, I have requested that the staff keep a radio on in her room and when I visit I wheel her in to the music room where I plunk away on the piano. She expresses a very intense and loud combination of laughing and frustration when I do. I told my husband she is remembering how awful I sounded while reluctantly practicing my piano as a kid.
It’s this idea that led me to create the piece “I Am Still Here”. I knew from that experience that my mom was still there deep, deep inside. It is a fully constructed hand-stitched coat made from paper and old newsprint from my hometown paper.
Another great thing about this piece is that I collaborated with a poet friend, Zac Stafford. I gave him the title without telling him about the piece. I think the poem fits perfectly with what I was trying to say or what my mom would. You can see it hand stenciled on the inside back.
To see all posts in this series go to the category, personal storytelling .