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Film showing in Carbondale is an amazing story of recovery

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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” On some level, most of us probably believe that amazing things can happen.

But reminders make all the difference.

“Life.Support.Music” is exactly that. The documentary, which comes to the valley tonight and Thursday with Aspen Filmfest, tells Jason Crigler’s story of recovery. A little more than four years ago, he was a hotshot guitar player in New York City, until a brain hemorrhage struck him in the middle of a gig. He stumbled offstage and soon into an ambulance. He doesn’t remember much from the next year-and-a-half.

“Music” fills in the missing gap ” a time when he went from being a near vegetable to starting his world over.

“It’s pretty wild,” said Jason.

It was a few days ago, and he was talking over the phone. His speech was slightly delayed but otherwise unaffected. It sounded happy and thankful and present. It made the visions from the film seem absolutely unreal.

Even seven months after the accident, there is footage of him completely incapacitated. He’s still in the hospital, and his body is twisted into what his sister, Marjorie, calls a “human knot.” His hands are clenched tight into little claws, and the rest of him looks painfully constricted. Only his mouth seems to have slack, and it’s open wide. He’s right there, but there’s no real sign of Jason anywhere.

“It, strangely enough, makes me feel pretty good,” he said (of these crazy images). “It makes me see how far I’ve come in three years. It makes me proud of the work I’ve done.”

And he wasn’t the only one toiling away. His sister, parents and pregnant wife, Monica, came to the hospital every day. Though other people in the place might have seen him as an unresponsive lump of a person, they saw the guy they loved ” only temporarily trapped. The film shows days and weeks and months where little seems to change with him. The situation looks nothing short of hopeless. The fact that his family felt differently seems nothing short of miraculous. Some of the most moving scenes are when they’re looking straight into the camera and recounting their experience. You can see the disbelief and fatigue in their faces, as well as their resolve. He’s going to get better, was all they could think then.

He was stuck in a void, and they wanted to fill it. They stimulated him in every way they could imagine. They were in the hospital every possible moment. They weren’t going to let him get disconnected from the world. Slowly, he did start to improve. He was working hard, and they were there for every little change in his condition. Even if it only meant he could nod his head, every advance had an awesome quality to it.

“Those moments were magical to us,” says Monica, in the film.

Somehow, she felt the pain of the situation only made the magic more so.

“You can’t help but love more in that instant, when you see the beauty in the sadness and the hardship,” she adds.

Finding the loveliness in the awfulness is a large part of the movie. Directed by Eric Daniel Metzgar, an acquaintance of Jason’s, it plays out like a love letter to Jason, his family and his extended group of musical friends. The camera is there to catch Jason’s achievements, like when he’s learning to walk, starting to connect with his little daughter, beginning to practice his guitar again. Toward the end of the film, he plays for a large crowd for the first time since the accident. His performance ” and the outpouring of happiness from his pals ” is sob-inducing.

“I was always really driven to recover,” said Jason, through the phone. “I know now that I really am still really driven to recover.”

He’s still dealing with his hemorrhage, you see. He still has to work at keeping his hands flexible and loose. He has double vision, and he gets tired easily. Along with having these issues, he’s re-entering the working world, as well, and he just put out a new CD. Trying to reconstruct his life while still recovering is a “drag,” he admitted. But he’s not complaining. He has his friends and family, and he has those standing ovations when he speaks at screenings of this film.

The amazing quality of all of it isn’t lost on him.

“I feel like the story is something that should be out there,” he said.

We all need to see just how much is possible.