Glen would open each show on the Goodbye Tour by singing “Gentle on my Mind” and announcing:
Hi, I’m Glen Campbell and I’m happy to be here! Heck, at my age, I’m happy to be anywhere!”
Glen was innately funny and his delivery of this line was always met with raucous laughter from the audience. Apparently many people share this sentiment with him! Although Alzheimer’s could have sent him in to depression and retreat, Glen was filled with determination to continue doing what he loved to do, surrounded by friends, family and his adoring fans.
At the end of 2012, Glen ended the tour and entered the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Today, he is in late stage six or early stage seven (it’s hard to know exactly, as the stages overlap). Time and place are no longer perceptible to Glen; he lives completely in the moment and seems happy to be there. He laughs and giggles and sings little melodies all day, whether someone is there to hear them or not. I am actually quite inspired by his peace and contentment and am striving to find the same in my own life.
At this point it is unclear whether or not he recognizes anyone. He may greet family and friends as if he’s meeting them for the first time and strangers as if he has known them all his life – but he greets everyone with a smile.
My hope of him remembering me is realized only in the rare but powerful moments of lucidity that come and go like the wind in a cruel but cherished tease. Even on the days when it seems that he doesn’t know who I am, when I nestle into his arms, he instinctively holds me just like he used to. There must be some magic to muscle memory because as I melt into his embrace, he sighs and squeezes me as if he knows I belong there and is trying to comfort me. I find incredible peace in these moments and I think he does too.
Although Glen becomes more and more distant each day, it seems to me that the one thing people with dementia never lose is the ability to love and be loved.
The heartbreaking journey of saying ‘The Long Goodbye’ is not where I want to be, but as long as I’m with Glen, I’m happy to be anywhere! I hope this song Glen co-wrote for the Grammy-winning soundtrack of I’ll Be Me can serve as a birthday message from him to us all as he continues his own Long Walk Home.
I love you darling! Happy 81st Birthday!