I Must be Saved: Listening to Madeleine Peyroux

Listening to Madeleine Peyroux’s “I must be saved” from Bare Bones

for Rev. John Porter (1919-2003)

my sun, my moon, my whole sky

– By J.S. Porter

Lose your rhythm, lose your lines, lose your sense of passing time.
But if you lose me in your mind I must be saved.

She sings the most devastating things casually, off-handedly, as if she’s been through all the fires and everything just smolders now.
She has the voice of a street singer, a subway singer, a bar singer, a singer in a carnival, a singer at a grave.

When you hear the song you think, shouldn’t it be “You must be saved?” If you lose me, then you must be saved. But it’s: if you lose me, then I must be saved.

Lose your passion and your hope, lose the knotting in your rope, Lose your armor in the struggles that you brave.
Love and pain. Memory and forgetfulness.

Lose the children that you bore, lose the battle, lose the war,
But if you lose me in your core I must be saved.

When my father acquired Alzheimer’s he never lost me. I was always a presence dear to him, if not his son, then his brother Tom who’d just flown in from Belfast to see him.  If he had lost me entirely, I would have needed saving.  Not him. He was already lost.

World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21st of each year, is a day on which Alzheimer’s organizations around the world concentrate their efforts on raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a group of disorders that impairs mental functioning.


When you lose a father to Alzheimer’s as I did, you try to remember some of their final moments of lucidity. I remember dad’s beautiful sentence to my daughter Rachel when he was asked how he was feeling:

I don’t remember how I felt before you came, I don’t know how I’ll feel when you’re gone, but right now with you here, I feel fine.

I remember a strange late-night phone call from his long-term care centre in Whitby that went something like this:

“Where’s the boy?” the voice asks
I think he means me

“Who’s speaking?” he asks
I know he doesn’t mean me

“Where’s the boy?” he repeats

For a moment he’s Santiago
the old Cuban fisherman who hooks a marlin
and asks for the boy in his triumph and pain
before he loses everything 

“Where’s the boy?” dad asks a third time
This time I know 

He wants my son, Daniel
the interpreter of dreams
the one who walked into the lion’s den
and out again 

I am blessed
a beautiful, broken father
a beautiful, unbroken son