This article was published in the Argus last week.
Rumi once opined: “When love first tasted the lips of being human, it started singing”. Music and the creation thereof is sacred.
For a while the very sacredness I longed for my entire life left and with it the music that ran wild under my skin. I was only brave twice – with the birth of my daughter and when deciding to become a professional musician. Those two acts defined the contours of my life. Yet when my world fell apart, after small and big deaths, neither music nor my daughter could lure me back from the hell I descended into. I became what I always feared – faithless.
A friend suggested that I find something other than music, to be passionate about and in service of. Gilda is one of the founding members of The Living Cornerstone (TLC) Alzheimer’s Residences, a non-profit organisation, in Sedgefield. I knew nothing of the disease but I was sent on a course with the TLC caregivers. I emerged with greater awareness, renewed faith and a new set of grandparents. I was finally able to embody the motto I have inked on my skin – Awareness Through Music. “All right my girl, you will be TLC’s ambassador”, Gilda decided, and that was the end of the matter.
Alzheimer’s is a “chronic neuro-degenerative disease” that impacts the memory and language centres of the brain. It might be mistaken for ageing. Memories are lost, the ability to respond to one’s environment decreases, as does their ability to care for oneself. This continues until the entire body shuts down resulting in death. It is imperative that a diagnosis is made as those suffering from Alzheimer’s require specific care. They face the threat of exploitation by those they love, on whom the disease takes an enormous toll. Gilda and I faced the disease as it took hold of her husband, Douglas. “To look at someone whom you have known nearly all your life become a child again is so very, very hard. Especially when they think you are their mother and they call you mom. Each set back is like a little death,” Gilda said. Douglas died on May 1.
The greatest lesson Gilda and Doug taught me was – this moment of now is all we are afforded. The world and all its small and big failings is nothing other than a wound waiting patiently to be healed. And it is healed by our being. Being whole, being present, being kind, being curious, being fearless… being human.