Roberta Flynn and I went to a screening of “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me.” This is a documentary about one of the most famous country singers of our lifetime after his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2011. Unlike other families of nationally recognized celebrities, Glen and his family decided to go public with his fight against Alzheimer’s, sharing private and public footage over 425 days in 2013/2014. Based around a “Goodbye Tour” that started out as a three-week engagement, the film covers what turns into a 151 show nationwide tour, and all that happens to this brave family as they race the clock against a war they will not win.
Why would they do this you may wonder? Kim Campbell, Glen’s wife answers, “Together with Glen, our family is invested in changing the national conversation around Alzheimer’s disease. Glen has chosen to intimately share our experience with Alzheimer’s with the world so that we can raise awareness about the disease and make a difference both in the search for a cure and in supporting families and caregivers of the diagnosed.”
I was moved by the experience of this film. I learned new information and was reminded of ideas that needed to come to the forefront again. Glen Campbell was born in 1936; that means he was diagnosed when he was 74. He has entertained us since the 1960’s and although he gets lost in his home, shadows his wife and struggles to find words for simple conversations, the magic of his music allows him to remember the words of his songs and the chords of his guitar during his concerts (up until the end of the tour).
My mind was amazed and my heart hurt to witness the ravages of this disease on the big screen. Glen has sold millions of records, won hundreds of awards and was recognized by his peers with the 2012 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, yet he is more than the public person. He is a husband, father, friend, relative, neighbor. He is a man who needs to be bathed, dressed, fed and directed. He can remember the words to “Gentle on My Mind,” but not his children’s names or birthdays. His family is losing their father and husband.
The Campbells are us. Ultimately, there are no differences. Kim Campbell and her daughter went before Congress and spoke about the need for more funding for Alzheimer’s research. Support through programs and services for caregivers, advocacy at the state and federal level and research to find a cure are all priorities. Glen has written one more song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” He sings, “You’re the last person I will love, You’re the last face I will recall, And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you.” But as family members, we miss them as they slowly slip away.
And we miss you, our Rhinestone Cowboy.