The University of New Hampshire hosted its third lecture series of the year in the Strafford Room of the Memorial Union Building on Wednesday, October 17. This time around, the series brought in musician Jason Crigler and his sister, author Marjorie Crigler.
Jason Crigler was a musician in New York before he suffered a major stroke and lost his ability to eat, talk and move around easily. Marjorie showed clips of her brother in the hospital struggling to nod his head or pass his occupational therapist small bean bags.
When Marjorie was done showing the clips, she introduced Jason onto the stage. He walked in from a side door, looking nothing like the man the audience saw in the video clips.
On August 5, 2004, Jason suffered a stroke while performing. All his doctors were sure that he would not make it through the night. His whole family was at the hospital with him; his mother, father, sister and two-months pregnant wife.
When Jason made it through the night, his family knew that there would be a lot of work to do. Thus, they rearranged their lives for him, making sure someone would always be there with Jason.
“We would be the first ones at the hospital and we stayed until they kicked us out. We took turns staying with him in shifts,” Marjorie recalls.
It took a year and a half for Jason to start to recover from his stroke. During that time, he went through countless doctors, got moved from New York to Boston and missed the birth of his daughter, as well as most of her infancy.
Jason says that what got him through this tough time was the power of choice. “How do I choose to see this?” he asked himself. He describes himself as a glass-half-full person and says changing his perspective helped in his recovery.
Jason had started an album before his stroke but decided to finish it two years later when he was done moving in and out of the various hospitals. Since it was hard for him to play guitar now, an instrument that constituted his entire life before the stroke, he put the aggregate of his energy into creating a new album: “The Music of Jason Crigler.”
Before the question and answer portion of the night, Jason played the first song he wrote after the injury, proving to himself that he could still make music even though it hurt to pick up a guitar. He displayed the hard work it took to relearn the guitar by playing the song live for the audience, striking perfect chords and harmonious notes.
Jason now focuses on teaching guitar to people around Durham, saying that teaching “at its core is about connection,” something he needed while he was recovering.
Most of his students, both young and old, were there to support him.
“I know bits and pieces, but Jason has never told me the full story,” David Sharp, a 14-year-old student of Jason’s, said.
Marjorie wrote a book about the family’s experience called “Get Me Through Tomorrow,” under the name Mojie Crigler. Her book can be found on Amazon. Additionally, a documentary created about Jason’s life called “Life. Support. Music.” aired on PBS in 2009. The documentary is now available on Vimeo.