Stories about Alzheimer’s disease are rarely told from the point of view of the sufferer, and for obvious reasons.

As the disease begins to drown the sufferer in forgetfulness, it is their family and friends who become the witnesses, watching in agony as their loved one fades, going somewhere unreachable.

It is gradual but degenerative. There are moments when the person resurfaces and becomes aware, but these are filled with a cruel paradox. The joy of a returned loved one is mixed with their sudden and fearful understanding that they are forgetting themselves. They know that the tide will sweep over their memory once again, wiping out sense of self. As time goes by, each return becomes shallower, shorter and more precious.

The agony for those who care for sufferers of this disease is compounded by the fact that so much can remain of the person’s character. Often their wee mannerisms, their turn of phrase and their gestures can remain, giving the impression that the person is still fully themselves.

But then a confused or frightened look or words that make no sense reveal that the person you love has fallen again into that unreachable place.

But as the loved one fades deeper, the power of music or story can be the most powerful bridge to bring them momentarily back to our world. I have seen at first hand the powerful magical ability of story, music and rhyme to reignite a person’s memory.

And, after all, we are our memories, and our memories are us, which is why Alzheimer’s is such a cruel disease for both sufferer and their loved ones.

The following story takes us into the world of the sufferer. It is not written by me. It was written by a county 16-year-old with a powerful sense of empathy and understanding. When I read it, I was struck by the ability of this young writer to take us into the mind of a person who remains herself, but flits from different worlds.

It raised in me the question of where that other place might be. Often it is the past, with people who have been long dead becoming once again immediate, with childhood being a re-remembered experience. But perhaps it is also a re-living of life’s joys and achievements.

Morvern uses the power of story to help us share the journey of someone who would otherwise be seen yet unseen. I hope it will encourage others to tell the story of their loved one, even if they are now unable to do it themselves.

So here is the story by Morvern Graham, aged 16: “I sit in front of the piano, surrounded in the moments of silence before the first few notes of the song and I feel my heart beat in my chest as I raise my fingers to the keys.

“Nerves always plague me until the moment my fingers touch the smooth ivory white, but then my heart remembers the music, and the notes flow one after another in my mind.

“I always had a connection with the piano; my earliest memories are listening to my mother play the old one in our living room. I longed to play like she did one day, to hold the passion her fingers held when she played.

“I wanted to play like all the great pianists I knew, and I learned each of their songs note by note – Chopin, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky – they all wrote such beautiful songs that made my heart sing when I played them. But I’d make my own compositions too, of course, packing all my bottled feelings and emotions into them. My fingers became the dancers and the piano the stage.

“However, I didn’t get to perform on a real stage until I was 19: my tutor pitched me into a small performance at the local town hall alongside some of her other pupils and colleges. It may have only been a small gig, but performing thrilled every part of me, and I never looked back.

“Music can bring about such a powerful connection between the musician and the audience. For now, many rows of faces sit hushed in a polite veil of silence, but as you begin to play the veil seems to falter. The audience settle into the song as comfortably as you do and snippets of memories begin to drift back into their minds: lines of nursery rhymes, old friends we had forgotten about, evenings by the fire. My music can string all of those memories together and knit them up in such a way that connects us all, performer and audience, together. Unafraid, I look out into the audience, peering through the darkness into the endless sea of faces, all watching me.

“One lady in particular catches my eye – she is very old, and her body is frail and hunched over. Limp white hair falls around her sagging, wrinkled face and her skin looks papery and thin. She cradles a ball of wool in her lap and a pair of knitting needles move swiftly in her hands. She smiles at me, her eyes lit up and her laugh lines crinkled. Her expression looks so familiar, one of recognition. It’s as if I know her somehow. I reach the coda in the music and pause for a while, my fingers hovering just above the keys.

“The lady in the audience returns to her knitting, and hushed chatter seems to rise as I realise I’ve stopped playing entirely. Flustered, I look back to the piano, but somehow I can’t seem to remember the music now. My fragile connection with the audience is fading, our memories unravelling stitch by stitch, though I try to cling to them with failing fingers. I look down in a panic at my hands. They sit now curled up in my lap, fingers closed together and hunched up like frightened animals. I attempt to move my hands, but they respond only in pain and aching joints. It’s only then, that I remember where I really am.

“I hate the remembering, it’s like waking from a lovely dream, only to find yourself back in your own harsh reality. I cling to the dream with failing fingers, but it slips away cruelly and my memories unfold.

“I am in a nursing home, one I was admitted to three years ago after my doctor told me I could never play the piano again. I had chronic arthritis in my joints, and my hands were the worst affected. I was unable to play my old piano in my house, so it remained where it always did by the window in the front room, gathering dust that my sick fingers couldn’t brush away. I knew I could no longer play, but I refused to believe my fingers had lost their passion. I would sit in front of my piano for days on end, depriving myself of all other comforts in order to try and find that passion again. I would stretch my hands across the keys, straining to reach the notes, tears streaming from the pain.

“Although physically I was unable to play, I felt I still had the ability to play in my mind. Some days it felt as if my fingers just forgot their disease and they could really play again. I could sit at my dear piano and play all my favourite songs, note by note – Chopin, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, all such beautiful compositions.

“But a short while after I was admitted to the Shady Oaks nursing home, and they told me I had to stay with them for a long while, because I was starting to forget things.

“I argued at first, defending my sanity vigorously, as it felt as if instead of forgetting things, I was actually starting to remember. But maybe they’re right. I know I have arthritis, but ever since I was admitted my mind is a mumble of shattered memories. I find myself no longer being able to knit my memories together in an ordered fashion; instead I seem to be creating an increasingly wonky scarf, muddling colours and dropping stitches.

“It’s not so bad here, though, the trick is to keep busy. Many residents have hobbies they occupy themselves with. Even now I can see chess games, domino tournaments and crochet circles round the room. One lady in particular catches my eye – she is very old, and her body is frail and hunched over, one of the residents here. She is doing some knitting, and she smiles warmly at me… oh how I envy her working fingers.

“They do have a piano here, but it’s as if its soul purpose is to torture me. My fingers have become claws now.

“But sometimes, I like to sit by the piano and remember what it felt like to play at my concerts. And occasionally I reach for the keys, allowing the tips of my fingers to touch their smooth, cold surface; I struggle to unfold my hands, and I force my fingers down onto the notes, straining, grasping, for my perfect cadence.”