Kimberly Williams-Paisley looks for signs from the universe that everything will be okay as she navigates her mother’s primary progressive aphasia diagnosis. Everything feels out of control, and it helps her to look for omens as she waits for definitive news.

We’ll talk about looking for signs in this latest installment of our online book club speaking about Kimberly Williams-Paisley’s book, Where the Light Gets In. She writes about her mother’s experience with primary progressive aphasia.

The Scent of Chocolate

The family turns to Dr. Mesulam for a second opinion a year after her mother’s initial diagnosis. Dr. Mesulam is known for his work with primary progressive aphasia, the first to recognize the disease as a separate form of dementia from Alzheimer’s.

As they walk to his office, Kimberly picks up the scent of chocolate in the air. She writes on page 78, “Chocolate in any form was comforting evidence that everything turned out all right. Now we hoped that Dr. M.-Marsel Mesulam, the world’s expert on primary progressive aphasia, would make it so.” Chocolate has always played a starring role in her father’s bedtime stories. Each tale ending with the main character enjoying chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate: a sign that everything is okay.

So when Kimberly picks up this scent in the air from the nearby Blommer chocolate factory, it feels like a good omen. It’s a sign from the universe that everything will be okay in the end.


Unfortunately, everything does not go okay during the visit. The doctor confirms the diagnosis. Kimberly writes on page 82, “We waited for a shred of good news. But there was none.” Her mother becomes despondant during the second part of the evaluation and doesn’t want to return after a break for the final series of tests. As they walk outside, Kimberly comments on page 87: “We held her hands on the street and encouraged her to take deep breaths. I don’t remember smelling any more chocolate in the air.”

The omen doesn’t come true in the sense that the family’s bad news is confirmed rather than denied. Still, it is a gentle step Kimberly needs to take in order to steel herself as they enter the second opinion.

Do you find yourself looking for signs from the universe?

Image: Charisse Kenion via Unsplash