Monday, January 18, 2010

Word of the Week: Words

I like to talk, I like to write, and I take my words for granted. Nearly ten years ago my uncle (pictured here with my son) was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a disorder of language that progresses over time. At first he had difficulty speaking. Then reading, spelling, and writing became challenging, too. For much of that time he could understand what others said to him, but had a hard time forming responses. More recently, conversation was nearly impossible.

Throughout this time, he and his wife dealt with this frustrating condition with incredible grace. I am certain I would never have been as patient as either of them. Their strength and their love has been truly inspiring.

Sadly, my uncle passed away yesterday. When I last saw him several months ago, I could only say hello and give him a hug. No other words were possible. I left that visit missing him. Even though he was there in the room, I realized how much you lose when you can't share words. So much of the connections we have with each other are about our conversations: voicing ideas, sharing endearments. We take our words for granted.

I don't usually make requests here, but today I want you to do two things for me. The first thing is to remember the nicest thing someone ever said to you. Think about how their words made you feel. Think about how powerful a feeling it was to have someone acknowledge you, maybe praise you, compliment you, or thank you.

The second thing I want you to do is to say something nice to someone else. Don't be stingy with your words! It's so easy to thank someone for their help, compliment a job well done, or simply tell them how much they mean to you. And it means so much to the person who hears it. Never, ever take your words for granted.

To learn more about aphasia, please visit the National Aphasia Association.


  1. Thanks for posting this Emily. This is thought provoking, as well as touching. I have set the goal to be generous with my positive words today. I will continue to try and be stingy with my negative words, however. :) Thanks again!

  2. Very timely post for me as I need to find kind words for a loved one I am very unhappy with right now. Thank you for the words, reminder and inspiration.

  3. We agree. We rarely say everything we really want to say. Thanks for this great message. It's going to help us in the upcoming days.

  4. I am Butch's wife, Karen's cousin who has visited them each summer for the last few years. During that time I would often be alone with Butch and bcause of my deafness and this inability to talk, it made communication difficlt at best. The one time that we had no problem communicating was when we were watching the Red Sox games. It seemed the the love of basball that we both had tanscended to communication gap and we both had fun.

    Durham, NC

  5. Hats off to you Emily for not only letting us in to part of of your personal life but also taking the opportunity to educate others. I didn't know about primary progressive aphasia, but have now learned something new. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, and thank you for reminding us how words affect us all, the good and the bad. Shara

  6. Thank you all so much for sharing responses! Jen, you are so right: being "stingy" with negative words is pretty important, too! Tyrika, that seems really wise to find kind words for someone you're unhappy with. Much more challenging--that's something I find difficult. Thank YOU for that reminder. Cheryl and Dick, I'm so glad if this was helpful to you. I know you've been a great comfort to Karen. Bob, that's such an interesting point: there are lots of other ways to communicate, aren't there? I found that Butch still could express himself through his photography for some of those years, and I was able to connect with him a little bit that way. Shara, aphasia has been a sad and frustrating thing to have to know about, but it was also a good reminder, for sure. Thank you for your kind comments.



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