There is power in words. They have the power to build up, tear down, create new worlds, and generate understanding. I’ve long had a love affair with words. My dad is an avid reader, and I’ve been reading as long as I can remember.
I think it was those early years, learning the power behind words, that led me to write – to put on the page the words I could not say aloud. (Or simply create new worlds and new experiences.) Kimberly Williams-Paisley has a gift for words, just as she has a gift in front of a studio camera, and it is through her gift of words that she has graced us all with a truthful story – her family’s story – of losing, and finding, their beloved mother, wife, sister, and friend.
Where The Light Gets In: Losing My Mother Only to Find Her Again is Kim’s first book, and hopefully not her last. The memoir chronicles her mother, Linda Williams, being diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA). It is a disease that I was not familiar with, despite producing a multitude of shows addressing Alzheimer’s and dementia. As Kim explains in her book, PPA is a rare form of dementia. Primary means that it’s a communication problem. Progressive means it’s going to get worse. Aphasia means the loss or ability to understand or express speech.
Linda was only 62-years-old when she was diagnosed, following a multitude of testing. That was in 2004. Over the course of 12 years Kim, along with her sister – actress Ashley Williams, her brother – Jay, their spouses, their father, and their extended family watched the gradual changes in the woman whom they all loved. Each one dealt with the changes in their own ways as Linda lost her understanding of words, became confused and angry and dependent.
In Where The Light Gets In, Kim bares herself and the range of emotions she went through as her “old mom” – a vibrant, spunky woman – became her “new mom” – someone much more child-like. From battles over car keys to the care of Kim’s young sons, roles in the family changed in ways none of them ever expected or planned for.
I have long admired Kim. I still remember watching her in the remake of “Father Of The Bride”, which is still one of my favorite movies. Even then there was something that struck me about her. I’ve also been a big fan of her husband, country artist Brad Paisley. A fellow West Virginia native, I have followed his career for a long time. Over the course of the past two days – the time it took me to read Kim’s book – I discovered a newfound appreciation for the couple.
Flashes of red carpet events and award shows, sitcoms and concerts filtered through my mind with fresh appreciation of what they were experiencing behind closed doors. For a long time Linda’s dementia was kept a secret – one that she didn’t want shared, and the family respected those wishes despite the pain and struggles they endured.
I think Kim would agree that her family saw their lives take a drastic turn over the past twelve years, and they are still learning and growing and changing. We can all take something away from Where The Light Gets In. For me the book is a story of hope, of acceptance, of facing the darkness and finding the light. I applaud Kim for sharing her family’s story so beautifully and honestly and for giving me – and hopefully anyone that reads it – a little bit of hope… a little bit of light.