‘Before the Ashes Fall’: the story behind the book and the movie in development about dementia

Editor’s Note: The author of the post below, David Serafine, is a corporate security professional in the US. He is not like most of our Readers, a professional in healthcare technology or social care. What compelled him to write a novel about a father and son, and a family affected by the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, is his own family’s story. We deal with dementia as professionals, but it has also touched and affected our family lives, and in many cases, our work lives. 

David reached out to me through a post on LinkedIn and after some discussion, I have decided to share his message with you. He and his production team are now reaching out to people like us to find financing for a film treatment, to be shot in Western New York State. Through the film, they will tell not only a story, but also to use the film to promote education and societal awareness, especially among minority and underserved communities heavily impacted by this disease.

Through our networks and our companies, you may know a funder, or funders, who are interested in backing this cause. More information on the production is attached (Release–PDF). You may contact David at serafinedavid@gmail.com, phone 512.571.0418, or via LinkedIn .


Before the Ashes Fall by David Serafine

I first encountered Dementia in June 2016.  It was my wife’s grandfather, a sturdy and tough as nails Texas farmer, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.   The man’s diagnosis came only a  year removed from tending crops beneath the relentless noon sun while seamlessly conversing with a razor-sharp precision. “And we need to hide his truck keys for good”. The words, stinging with an exactness and finality, didn’t quite measure up.  The man still looked normal.

One year later, I observed half of the same man blankly staring at a birthday cake, not realizing it was his. The celebration carried on around him, with each attendee recalling stories of his life. I stared hard at his face, almost willing a quiver or smile, anything to suggest the words resonated. Nothing moved. Finally, I noticed his jutting collarbones which resembled a cheap wooden hanger. My eyes traced the sharp rise and fall around his shoulders and the blanched fabric which hung from them.

I contemplated whether Alzheimer’s solely left this wake of damage. Or, was it exacerbated by his daughter’s own Frontotemporal Dementia diagnosis, relegating her final days to a Memory Care Facility?  I never knew the answer as two months later, the man succumbed to Alzheimer’s complications.  To this day, his daughter was never told that he died.   That type of message, with a woman in her condition,  could be a potential catalyst for further emotional distress. 

Sometime during that journey, I wrote a fictional novel called ‘Before the Ashes Fall’.   In short, the novel is a race for “Love, Forgiveness, and Redemption” between a father and son beneath the cloud of Alzheimer’s. The process was as equally heartbreaking as cathartic. I mostly bled and cried into pages for a year, completed it, and put it to bed.

However, the book elicited correspondence from Malaysia, Ireland, Brazil, and Chile. The messages always began the same: “I had a (insert family member) die from various forms of Dementia.  Thank you for writing this story”. Two observations became clear over time. First, ‘Dementia’ didn’t stay in lanes, either geographically or demographically.  It was global and touched everyone either directly or indirectly.

Secondly, and arguably the crueler facet, is the insidious nature of Dementia.  In many circumstances, the readers’ initially described  Dementia as a ‘normal’ part of aging.  It wasn’t until an unequivocal tipping point- “my husband left the stovetop gas on’’-that it was no longer ‘normal’. That same moment generated guilt within the de facto caretaker (spouse, daughter, etc.) of what could have been prevented.

I researched the diseases of Dementia -Alzheimer’s is but one diagnosis and it alone will cost over $1 trillion (globally) in 2020 alone.  I also learned life choices and even traumatic events had a dramatic impact on the diseases’ progression.  Those two points are the most critical: we have some control and hope with increased awareness.

In July of 2020,  my book was adapted for film by a multiple award-winning Director. The story and approach are unique, unlike the other Dementia-based films. As we will target 60 global film festivals, three primary goals materialized.

First, and the most unique aspect of the approach, is our desire to facilitate pragmatic and current medical forums.  The engagements will include not only allopathic guidance but more importantly, non-allopathic guidance.  We seek to educate communities on life choices – diet, exercise, early testing before the disease has advanced. There are informed choices we can make that can delay and lessen the impact of Dementia. This is least understood globally.

Secondly, we will use film and outreach to galvanize communities.  A search of Dementia-themed films will yield 2  most recognizable (Still Alice and The Notebook).  Our film will feature a different demographic, one illustrating the ‘absence of lanes’ with the disease.  This will be represented in the cast, crew, and artwork produced by local Dementia patients.

These goals have been welcomed by medical practitioners, podcasters, and Corporate Social Responsibility Executives.  In addition to a strong storyline, we believe film fans will sense a collective ownership of this film during its production and engagement in their communities.   Additionally, it’s supportive and empowering to overcome tragedy alongside others, particularly those who strive for a better future.

Finally, and unique to the film industry, we seek to re-invest 50% of all profits into Dementia-related awareness campaigns.  If funded, we believe “Before the Ashes Fall” has a 3X delivery back into the programs we seek to support.

“Before the Ashes Fall” is a fiscally sponsored film through the Film Collaborative and individual or corporate donations are tax-deductible.   It’s an amazing opportunity to shape the future for current and generations to come, all desiring the same goal: a cure for Alzheimer’s. 

[More information on the production here: PDF]

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