A few days ago, I was an emotional mess. I was touched at by the compassion and heart-wrenching stories I was reading. I’m the better for reading them. These are the shared stories about Alzheimer’s experiences from our radio and online audiences. But, then I’m faced with the question: What do we do with this repository of knowledge, with all these magnificent life stories?

Our first step was to create an interface that provides more context — in this case a dynamic map showcasing these acts of remembering. For this “mash-up” we used Google maps, Flickr images, an internally developed application (thanks Dickens!), and our Web site. We gain a greater sense of these authors and their relation to others geographically, including pull quotes and images and age and religious affiliation. And then you can delve deeper by reading each individual essay and viewing larger images.

But the danger is that one can feel lost, even overwhelmed by all these stories, and not no where to begin. We moderate and copy edit most of comments, reflections, and stories online; we like to maintain a safe space where people can feel a sense of trust and share things they wouldn’t in other online forums. The other advantage is that we read everything that comes our way. So, I had to ask myself, “Why not use that curatorial role to highlight particularly moving stories?” So I started tweeting and posting quotes to our Facebook page. For those of you who only read SOF Observed, I thought I’d share them with you:

Madeline MillerMadeline Miller: “I hold that advice dear and try to have lots of picnics or just live in a picnic-like way…”

Diana CarsonDiana Carson: On a moment between her grandfather — who had Alzheimer’s — and her grandmother: “I don’t know who you are, but … I have loved you for a long time.”

Deborah JaegersDeborah Jaeger: On working with her father who has Alzheimer’s, “The most difficult aspect of taking care of my father is that we are invisible to others.”

Lea MathieuLea Mathieu: Reflecting on the change in her mother who died of Alzheimer’s, “I do not hope for grace and forgiveness in the future — everyone I meet knows I love them now,”

And from this call-out, we found an unexpected voice in Alan Dienstag, who submitted his own suggestions.

A few years earlier, Krista had interviewed two people for a potential show on Alzheimer’s. The interviews went really well, but we wanted our first foray into this topic to speak to something larger, more personal, more universal — and we needed a voice that could create that space.

Alan Dienstag wasn’t on our radar. We hadn’t heard of him, but Krista asked one of our producers to follow up and ask if he had any recommendations (a scenario similar to our encounter with Patrick Bellegarde-Smith). In talking to him, we realized he was our voice. The result: “Alzheimer’s, Memory, and Being.”

We take great pride in being open to possibilities and sources that aren’t part of our Rolodex, so to speak. And, we hope to discover more stories that give greater meaning to all these topics we cover over the years. In the meanwhile, we’re ready to include more.


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