“Sail On” by Brent Hoag (Poem & Song) – Coping with Ambiguous Loss When a Loved One Has Dementia

Sail On by Brent Hoag

YouTube video by Marilyn Christian: Sail on by Brent Hoag https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyRAhRZ4ud0. Brent Hoag wrote a poem for his wife, Sally, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The words were put to music by Songfinch and sung by Effee.

On page 92 of, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, & Memory Loss: A Helpful Guide for Caregivers, which Brent Hoag helped me with, I explain about ambiguous loss, a term coined in the 1970s by Dr. Pauline Boss. It is the unfortunate situation whereby a loved one is still alive, but “lost” at the same time. They are physically present but psychologically absent. This happens when someone is affected by a disease such as Alzheimer’s or one of the many other neurocognitive disorders. Damage to and dying parts of the brain ultimately affects one’s personality. Some caregivers find writing can help them cope with their grief. Brent Hoag wrote a poem in 2021 called “Sail On” which is dedicated to his wife Sally (see below). He then had it made into a song, then naturally a video on YouTube followed (see above).

The book, “Alzheimer’s, Dementia, & Memory Loss: A Helpful Guide for Caregivers” that I helped author Angela G. Gentile in part to write, has been well-received with a lot of positive feedback. My original poem “Sail On,” which I dedicated to my wife Sally who is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, appears on page 93 which follows Chapter 9 that I wrote addressing humour and coping in relation to Alzheimer’s/Dementia.

For your ease of reference purposes, I am also including the original poem that I wrote that went viral across Canada, the USA, and beyond. I am so grateful to have heard back from countless people who thank me and let me know how much the poem (and now song) resonate with them. It is also great to learn that it has been disseminated/shared within the Alzheimer Society British Columbia and amongst personnel primarily at the renowned UBC Brain Health Centre. The song “Sail On” was also played at a national conference on-line discussion at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Brent Hoag
Brent and Sally Hoag

DEDICATED TO SALLY

SAIL ON

So far from the shore

I feel like I am no more

So far from land

I am now a lost husband

I am losing you

You are going away

Like a lost horizon on a cloudy day

From the deck I will release a dove

As a sign for you the one I love

Even though you are still here

I find that you are no longer near

Because you went adrift at sea

I will never again really be me

I love you Sally wherever you are

My heart is broken because you have forever gone afar

Even though I have found the shore

The “we” and “us” are never more

Sail on my love

Sail on my love

I pray that you find my dove

That I sent to you my love

Sail on

Sail on

Until you are finally free

From the bonds of this cruel sea

I will see you one day beyond the horizon

And my heavy tears will be no more

As we join together once again

So far from the shore

Love, Brent 💙

A special thank you goes out to Brent for sharing his beautiful poem. My heart goes out to him.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

Note: Brent says, “Feel free to share and further disseminate this.”

If you would like to get a message to myself, Angela G. Gentile, or Brent Hoag, please use this form or leave a reply in the comments section below.

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