I had a book event in Sydney last week and was talking about STILL ALICE and the Dementia Advocacy & Support Network International (DASNI). And because I was in Sydney, I mentioned Christine Bryden. Christine was one of the founding members of DASNI and one of the amazingly generous people who shared with me what it’s like to live with dementia while I was writing STILL ALICE. Christine was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 46 years old. She wrote two incredible books, WHO WILL I BE WHEN I DIE? and DANCING WITH DEMENTIA. She is also an Australian, which is what made me think of and mention her aloud to the audience.
I met Christine online through DASNI in 2004. I think it was around 2006 when the group at DASNI received an email from her husband, Paul, saying that she wasn’t doing so well and would be taking a step back from things. She would no longer be active on DASNI email or chat. I remember wondering and worrying about her many times since, but fearing the worst, I never had the courage to send a personal email to ask, “How are you doing?”
So during this book event in Sydney, I remained preoccupied with thoughts of Christine. When I returned to my hotel room, I turned on my computer, logged on to my email, and there, in my inbox, was an email from CHRISTINE BRYDEN.
She was just back from a vacation and wanted to let me know that she’d read STILL ALICE. She loved it and thanked me for thanking her in the acknowledgments. And she ended the email with, “if you’re ever in Brisbane, let us know!”
I was dumbstruck and thrilled, staring at an email from Christine after at least five years of not receiving an email from Christine on the very day I mentioned her name aloud after five years of not saying her name aloud while I’m in Australia and heading to, of all places, Brisbane!
I love coincidences like this because I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in magic and God and the spirituality of the Universe.
A few days later, I was in Brisbane, and Christine and her lovely husband, Paul, came to my book event at Dymock’s. We had coffee outside after the event, then walked along the river, then shared stories over beers. I feel so grateful for having had the chance to meet her in person, to hug her and thank her again for all she’s given to me, to get to know her and Paul better. And I feel peace in my heart, knowing that she is doing well.