“But lately, just when I think I’ve lost her, I find her again in small things and brief moments. They deepen the mystery, and feel something like miracles”
I loved The Father of the Bride movies starring the hilarious Steve Martin, Diane Keaton and Kimberly Williams-Paisley so when I realized that Williams-Paisley had written a book, I was interested. Where the Light Gets In is a memoir sharing her experience after her mother was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of dementia. It is a memoir that is heart wrenching yet tender and brutally honest yet helpful to others in similar experiences. It is a shining example of a loving extended family supporting each other through sickness and health.
Williams-Paisley was acting, raising 2 young boys with husband and country singer Brad Paisley and dealing with a secret. Adhering to her mom’s wishes, the family kept her progressive illness private as she struggled with her memory, ultimately retiring from her successful fundraising career. Her mother had a support network of family and close friends but as her illness progressed, her care needs increased and institutional care became necessary. Early in the disease trajectory the family struggled to deal with practical issues such as discussing the removal of her driver’s license along with awkward social situations. Later issues progressed to incontinence and aggressive behaviour.
Williams-Pasiley describes losing her mom in moving passages where she shares her frustration and apprehension to visit. She is honest about her misgivings when her dad started to share his time with a lady friend but how she came to appreciate the support to her dad and her family. The author talks about her experience coming to terms with her mother ‘as she was’ and trying to form a connection during their visits instead of grieving her mom that was gone.
I enjoyed finding a Canadian connection in the memoir – the title came from the Leonard Cohen song Anthem: “Ring the bells that can still ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”. It really does seem like the perfect title after reading William-Paisley’s experience coming to acceptance and loving her mom as she was. Working in health care and with seniors for the majority of my career, I appreciate the focus on dementia and the open, honest and realistic portrayal of her mom’s experience. This book will help others to accept and love their parents. It is a starting place for individuals to find more information and a number of links are at the back of the book. It is a quick read that I would recommend. Information is pending for her visit to Toronto presenting as part of a World Brain Health Event and I would love an opportunity to meet her!