Alzheimer’s Film Deals with Loss

On the NY Times website, “Late December” is a film about people dealing with loss, telling the story of Frank and Mary Jo Havlak, the grandparents of the filmmaker’s fiancé, who have been married almost 63 years. Over the last eight of them, Mary Jo has lost most of her memory to Alzheimer’s. Frank still visits her at the Alzheimer’s care home every day he can, and sometimes Joe Callander, the filmmaker, would tag along, watching him with his wife; those old wedding vows kept jangling through his head: ‘…in sickness and in health…til death do us part’.

In sickness. As reported by Callander, here it was right in front of me, 63 years later. No white dresses, no flowers, no tuxedos. Most of the people who attended their wedding are dead. All that remains..… is a 91-year-old man still making good on the promise he made to his wife 63 years ago, even though the part of her that once held the memory of that promise no longer exists

Callander believes one of the most basic acts of love is just to keep showing up, always and unconditionally. Sometimes the best you can do is to let somebody know they are loved, not alone, and not forgotten. His goal in making this film was to capture this simple act of love at the end of life. And so, before leaving town for Christmas in December 2015, he showed up at Grandpa Frank’s house with a suitcase and his camera gear, and stayed in the guest bedroom for three days. To view the film he made, go to:

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