A speech to remember (with audio excerpt)

One of the first aphasia survivors to use SentenceShaper was Mrs. Elaine Wolpe. The devastating impact of her aphasia is movingly described in her son David J. Wolpe’s book, In Speech and in Silence: The Jewish Quest for God (1992, Henry Holt & Co). In the spring of 1999, when her husband, Rabbi Gerald Wolpe (1927-2009), retired from Har Zion, his congregation of thirty years, Mrs. Wolpe used SentenceShaper to create two speeches of farewell.

The video below plays the closing lines of Mrs. Wolpe’s speech. It is well worth listening to (as well as reading) because of her deeply expressive intonation…it is a very important feature of SentenceShaper that it allows users to communicate in their own voices.

Note: If you don’t see and hear the video,  try refreshing the web page.

A few months after these speeches, Rabbi Wolpe wrote a moving letter of gratitude. Parts of this letter are quoted below. (All quotations and the sound file of Mrs. Wolpe’s speech are reproduced here with the permission of the Wolpe family.) Mrs. Wolpe’s two speeches are also described in a book about Rabbi Wolpe’s retirement: The New Rabbi by Stephen Fried (2002, Bantam Books: pp 150, 262).

Rabbi Wolpe’s letter:

“…Fourteen years ago my wife collapsed in our home from the rupture of two brain aneurysms. This began a scenario of brutal adaptation to the damage inflicted by the trauma. She went from a college administrator and public speaker to an aphasic who was, fortunately, cognitively sound, but unable to express her thoughts. For two years she could utter only a nonsense syllable and then after intensive speech therapy some pattern of conversation emerged. It has been a struggle for her and her family; only someone with her indomitable spirit could have survived.

Then, through her work at MossRehab, Elaine was introduced to Marcia Linebarger who began to work with her [using SentenceShaper]…[This work] produced two of the most poignant moments of my life. I retired as rabbi of Har Zion Temple in PennValley this past spring. Elaine and I had spent thirty years in the congregation and it had been a time of absolute joy. It was an emotional parting and I spent a great deal of time preparing my remarks. I did not know that Elaine was doing the same thing.

Marcia and Elaine worked at the computer with what Marcia explained was a “processing prosthesis.” It allowed Elaine to place words in a memory pattern and laboriously to produce a speech of farewell to our friends. The first was at the Sisterhood luncheon in her honor and the second was at the farewell banquet. The sight of close to 1000 people weeping, my sons, daughters in law and I among them, was a tribute to their feelings about her and their admiration for her courage.”