NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Three years ago, Nashville singer/songwriter Jacob Rice received news that changed his family’s life: his grandmother, Barbara, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
His family had noticed certain signs that something wasn’t quite right, such as mixing things up, forgetting more things and becoming more paranoid about her health; a trip to the doctor confirmed the presence of the gene commonly found in individuals with Alzheimer’s.
The news was shocking to Rice’s family, he told News 2, as Barbara was “the rock, the foundation of our family on my dad’s side.”
Rice was pursuing his music career in Los Angeles at the time. His family was over 3,000 miles away on the East coast. His father called to relay the news, displaying emotion Jacob wasn’t familiar hearing from his father.
“He was really choked up, and I was surprised, because that’s not like my dad,” he said.
His father explained how he sat down with his mother and said there would come a day when she wouldn’t know who he was, but he still loved her and would always remember her, Jacob said.
“It was such a powerful thing for me,” he said. “My dad is a great man, an awesome guy, but he’s not really the most emotional. To hear him get choked up really set the tone for the phone call.”
That call eventually inspired him to write a song to help both himself and his father communicate to his grandmother that they would always love and remember her, even when she could not remember them.
“I wanted to write a song for my dad. It was my dad speaking to my grandmother, is really the lyrics to the song,” he said.
His song, “I Will Remember,” shares that message of hope from his father’s point of view.
As time and Barbara’s condition has progressed, however, Rice said the song has taken on a whole new meaning.
“It’s pretty powerful because, as time has gone on, it’s completely changed as the Alzheimer’s has progressed,” he said. “The song has become a way to grieve someone while they’re still with us.”
Since his grandmother was diagnosed in 2019, Rice said it has become more difficult to have a relationship with her unless he can visit in person. The disease ravaging her mind has made her more forgetful, and phone conversations can confuse her, he said. She currently resides in New York with his family, but he lives here in Nashville.
Grieving someone while they’re still living is a common emotion experienced by the families of those living with Alzheimer’s. While their loved one is affected by the disease, they, too, experience loss as the person they knew is taken over by the dementia.
This experience is a new one for Rice and his family, he said, as they have never had to face anything this difficult and all-encompassing before.
“It’s hard for the person going through it, but it’s also hard on the people that are there to take care of them,” he said. “The person that I grew up with, the grandmother that I love so dearly and was such a friend, she’s not with us anymore. That’s something that I’ve had to accept.”
Through his song, Rice said he hopes to bring peace and understanding to people who may need it.
“I hope that the song brings people peace,” he said.
Nashvillians will be able to hear Rice perform the song live later this month when he hosts a songwriter’s round table at The Listening Room Cafe downtown for the Alzheimer’s Association Tennessee chapter and in recognition of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.
Friday, June 24, at 8:30 p.m., Rice will bring several local singer/songwriters together to perform and try to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. The event is part of “The Longest Day” campaign from the Alzheimer’s Association.
The campaign utilizes the summer solstice, which will be June 21, as the day people around the nation “fight the darkness” of Alzheimer’s with an activity of their choice. The round table is Rice’s chosen activity to “shine a light” on the disease.
“In honor of my grandmother and her fight, I decided to put this concert together to try to raise as much money as I could,” he said. “I’m really excited. It’s going to be an amazing show.”
Rice will be joined by fellow songwriter and friend Mark Elliot, who co-wrote “I Will Remember” with Rice; Kat and Alex, who will be performing this weekend at the CMA Fest on the Platinum Stage; and songwriter Greylan James, who has written songs for Kenny Chesney, Chris Young and Blake Shelton, among others.
All four acts are looking forward to coming together to sing their songs, talk about music and try to raise as much money as they can for Alzheimer’s and dementia research.
“I want this to be fun and exciting,” Rice said. “I want it to be a fun night out with great music and great artists.”