My grandfather died of Alzheimer's. (I know, technically, that's not true. Alzheimer's doesn't kill you, the medical pro's say. To which I respond: Of course it does. Slowly. Sucking away your existence one memory at a time...)
To lose the memories that one has spent a lifetime collecting is a callous, cruel joke one's brain plays on the body and soul. The process of losing oneself to Alzheimer's is slow... insidious... It's spread so thinly over such a long period of time that even the person losing his or her mind is aware of the impending disappearance, though powerless to stop it.
To this day, every time I find myself searching for a dropped word or a lost train of thought, a part of me wonders: Is this how it begins?
That's why I love the life and hope that shines through this video. (It's a little over 6 minutes. It's a wonderful 6 minutes...)
No, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. But imagine the joys of discovering a back door to reclaim lost memories! Wouldn't a reprieve, no matter how fleeting, be preferable to aimlessly wandering the uncharted caverns of your mind?
Music speaks so personally to us. There is a chemistry to music -- an elusive allure, much like the chemistry of pheromones that might spark feelings in one person I meet, but not in another. The music that moves me doesn't necessarily move my husband or my daughter in the same way.
The characters I create, if they are full, well-rounded, and complete also have their musical preferences. If music could literally bring my characters to life in much the same way as it affects the elderly patients in the above video clip, what would it take to play them awake? If I know the answer, I can infuse it in my writing, energizing and enervating the people therein.
I know some writers who have playlists of writing music. I rarely do this -- finding that music, especially music with words, distracts rather than inspires. But when in the getting-to-know-you phase of character-building, I find it very helpful to determine what each character's musical preferences are. That knowledge helps make the character "real" in a way few other exercises can compare with.
Music gives us knowledge of each other because it introduces us to ourselves. So -- I'm sort-of seriously beginning to compile my own End of Life Playlist. I know what songs would remind me of who I am. What songs would be on yours?