When musician Joe Fraley's mom started suffering from Alzheimer's a few years ago, the devoted son immediately moved back home to help his dad care for her. He was there for it all—through the devastating memory loss, the gradual decline of his mother's health and, eventually, the day his mom had to be moved to an assisted living facility.
For years, he had thought nothing of picking up his guitar and singing to her. But recently, she stopped responding to the music her son played, and the sadness it brought him was unbearable.
"I recently stopped bringing my guitar to my mom's home because she no longer recognizes me and doesn't respond to it anymore," Fraley shared on Reddit over the weekend. “I wish I would have a played a lot more to her when she did."
Then, along with his post, he attached a simple little video that was made some months back. In it, Fraley sits on the front porch next to his mom. She tells him she's a little confused, and he assures her she has nothing to worry about. "It's OK. Everything's gonna be OK," he says, before launching into song.
The resulting video is touching, beautiful and heartbreaking, all at once.
"I missed my Mom’s smile so much when I played that I wanted other people to see it," Fraley later explained to BuzzFeed News about why he decided to post the video. "I have a few videos of me playing to my Mom but that was the last one I recorded. The other videos I have are a lot more heartbreaking to me because they were taken months before and you can clearly see how much she had changed over such a short amount of time."
Fraley added that he had some doubts about sharing the clip at first, but that those have been washed away by the overwhelmingly supportive responses he's received.
"After I posted it I felt embarrassed because it was so personal, but the responses [have been] incredible," he said. "So many people wrote me and told me how touched they were and shared their stories of what they went through with a loved one."
The emotional toll of Alzheimer's, adds Fraley, is not just felt by the friends and family of loved ones who suffer from it.
"The day after I posted the video I took my guitar to play for my mom," he said. "One of the caretakers had seen the video and told me that it made her cry and told me how hard it was to work there. We both started crying and hugged each other. I played and my Mom didn’t respond to the music but the other residents did and they were dancing. I would highly encourage anyone who does music to play for residents, their reactions to music are the most genuine of any audience I have ever seen. I’m going to continue to play there even after my Mom passes."
If you need us, we'll just be over here—curled up in a ball, crying.