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Video of mother recognizing her daughter shows 'dementia can be beautiful'

A touching moment of recognition between a deaf mother with dementia and the daughter who cares for her has resonated with thousands online.
Mom with dementia recognizes daughter in viral video
MJ Grant and her mom, during a special moment.MJ Grant/Facebook
/ Source: TODAY

It’s a simple conversation shared between a woman and her mother, who is battling dementia and struggling to remember her daughter. But the moment of recognition from the elder woman, captured on video and shared around the world, is raising awareness about the struggle faced by millions.

That the entire 2 1/2-minute exchange is caught in a video without any sound helps add poignancy to the moment.

It happened recently as MJ Grant took her deaf mother outside their Sanford, Maine, home for a ride to the beach. The two had a conversation inside their parked car when Grant's 76-year-old mother, Carmen, started talking about her children without realizing one of them was right next to her.

That's when Grant asked her mother: “Where’s MJ?”

Clearly puzzled, her mother responds by saying she doesn’t remember the last time she saw her.

“I saw her a long time ago … Christmas. I forget,” she responds in sign language.

Her daughter tries again.

“Where is MJ right now?” she asks.

“Maybe traveling? Have you met her?” her mother suggests.

MJ Grant responds with a nod and a smile — and with questions and tidbits about her parents that help jog her mother’s memory. Slowly, the older woman begins to recognize her daughter.

“Did I give birth to you?” she asks, pointing to her daughter, who nods with a huge smile.

She asks the question again, bringing her hands to her face in realization. She then reaching over to give her daughter a hug.

“I’m so surprised.”

Mom with dementia recognizes daughter in viral video
MJ Grant gets a hug from her mother, Carmen, after a moment of clarity. MJ Grant/Facebook

She then starts to remember more about her family — specifically, her other daughter, Grant's sister, LouAnn.

“I’m your mother. And I have another one?” she asks.

“Oh yes, it’s the two of you,” she then says with a nod.

Grant posted the video nearly a month ago on Facebook, where the clip has been seen nearly 2 million times and shared more than 28,000 times.

“Dementia can be beautiful," she wrote in the video’s caption.

The video has generated more than 4,000 comments and 28,000 reactions.

Grant, whose father is also deaf and works as a sign language interpreter, told NBC-affiliate WCSH-News Center Maine said she recognized the moment would resonate with others.

"I knew in some way I would have some level of support from people who might understand what it's like to have a parent with dementia, but not just that, but a parent who is deaf,” she said.

But she never expected the video would connect with so many viewers around the world. The response has moved Grant and has provided her with perspective.

"I don't think I stop in those moments and think how special it really is,” she said. “But putting it out there and seeing people’s reactions. It's like a recognition of how special and kind of momentous it is."

Grant told NBC News that they learned her mother had dementia about seven years ago when Carmen was taking care of her own mother, who had Alzheimer's.

"The sad part is that she worked for a number of years and retired to take care of her own mom and ended up with dementia before she even got to enjoy her retirement," Grant said.

But she said her mother lives with her and her family after a stay at a memory care facility didn't work for several reasons, including an absence of workers who knew sign language.

While there have been struggles, having her mother around has also brought plenty of delight.

"She doesn’t know who you are half the time. She’s being reintroduced to my husband and my kids every other hour," Grant said. "Every other hour it’s like 'Oh, you didn’t told me you have children! and I’m like, 'Yeah, you wanna meet them?' It’s really sweet."

NBC's Caroline Radnofsky contributed to this story.