By Terrence Casey
Harry Gardner knew by her blank stare that his “Nan” didn’t know who he was.
It had been a few weeks since his last visit, but her Alzheimer’s disease had progressed quickly, and the shocked British teen took his emotions home to his piano.
That night, he wrote “Not Alone,” using the day’s experience to inspire the opening lines:
Open your eyes,
and tell me what you see.
Am I among the forgotten?
Please say you remember me.
The Nan that Gardner grew up loving was funny and approachable, he said.
“Nan’s Irish, so naturally, she’s a bit of a character,” Gardner said. “She always used to spoil us. She always used to bring us chocolates and sweets when we weren’t meant to have any.”
Gardner and his family knew of Nan’s diagnosis, but her cognitive changes had been subtle and almost impossible to notice before this point. Spacing his visits out by a few weeks “made me realize how severe the disease could become,” he said.
It happens too fast.
I find it all so strange.
I never knew that this could happen.
I blinked once, and everything had changed.
Today, Gardner’s grandfather is Nan’s full-time caregiver, assisted by Gardner’s mother and her siblings.
“Not Alone” was never meant to be made public when Gardner wrote it, but a powerful response from his mother encouraged Gardner to publish a formal music video to YouTube. Any money Gardner earns from YouTube or Amazon downloads will be donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
“I miss the way my Nan was, so I feel this is the way I should go to try to help other people and stop them from going through this in the future,” Gardner said.
“Hopefully, in years to come, Alzheimer’s will have gained more awareness globally so that the world can work to make a cure… some form of prevention or some way of slowing it down, something to stop the impact of the disease like it’s had on my family.
And let me know I’m not alone.