Excerpt from Gentle on My Mind: In Sickness and in Health with Glen Campbell by Kim Campbell
I suspect the Goodbye Tour will go down in music history, not just because of the bravery Glen exhibited, the awareness of Alzheimer’s he brought to the world, and the lasting connection he made with his friends, but because we were fortunate to document on film what it means to be a real artist.
As we traveled, the signs of Glen’s deterioration became evident. Sometimes the sign would be obvious. He’d stop in the middle of a show for no reason and wander offstage. Other signs were more subtle. One sign in particular broke my heart.
We were home in Malibu, on break from the tour. During the day, Glen had played golf. That also became a challenge. Though he was a lifelong golfer, the sport he knew so well became confusing. Which club to use? What hole to play? It was only Dante’s kind understanding that allowed him to continue. Even when Glen accused Dante of stealing his golf clubs—acute paranoia is another side effect of Alzheimer’s—Dante never barked back. He was a loyal and loving friend.
That evening Glen and I got into bed and snuggled. We said goodnight to one another as we had done for thirty years. Then Glen recited the Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father who art in heaven
Holy is Your Name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
He then fell silent. I sensed what happened. He’d forgotten the rest of the words. I continued to pray out loud for him.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us
Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
He was then able to join me in finishing the prayer with the concluding doxology:
For Thine is the kingdom
And the power and the glory forever
Silence followed. I wasn’t sure what was going through Glen’s mind.
“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked.
“Afraid of what?”
“Afraid that I’ll forget the prayer.”
“I’ll always be here to help you,” I said.
“Promise me, Kim, that you’ll remind me to say the Lord’s Prayer every day. It’s the one thing I don’t want to forget.”
I promised, but I knew that eventually he would forget the prayer. He would eventually forget everything. It was a sobering moment. I say that because it made me realize that, in addition to fighting to retain his memory, Glen was fighting to retain his closeness to God.
– – –
Another moment came in the spring of 2012. We had an extra day off while traveling through Michigan, so we stopped at a quaint little bed and breakfast on Lake Erie to spend the night. We arrived just in time for dinner, and we were all starving, so Bill offered to wait for the restaurant to open to get a table big enough for our entourage. He invited Glen to wait with him while I put our things in the room.
There was a little gift shop right next to the restaurant with a sign out front that read, “Mother’s Day.” Glen’s eyes opened wide as he read the sign out loud. “Mother’s Day! I want to buy Kim a present.” Bill said. “Well, maybe we can find something in the gift shop. Let’s look.” Glen started walking up and down the aisles. “Pink,” Glen thought out loud, “Kim loves pink! I want to buy her something pink.” I had just made my way downstairs and saw Glen at the register getting ready to buy me something very pink, a large bottle of Pepto-Bismol. I immediately intervened.
“We don’t need that, Glen,” I said, seeing it as an impulsive purchase. Compulsive purchases were becoming more common. I put the bottle back on the shelf.
During dinner that night, Bill leaned across the table and whispered, “Glen saw the sign saying that it was Mother’s Day and wanted to surprise you by giving you something pink.” My jaw dropped. I had no idea. Tears filled my eyes. A wave of loving gratitude washed over me. That would have been the most heartfelt gift he would have ever given me. My dismissive action robbed him of a chance to express his love. It also robbed me of receiving that love. The episode humbled me, reminding me of my obligation—to take the time to try to understand what might be on Glen’s mind. Alzheimer’s is a mysterious disease, but its mysteries do not mean we can’t look for signs of love.
– – –
We made an important stop in Washington, DC. After a show at the Library of Congress, we took out two days to meet with senators and representatives to advocate for Alzheimer’s research. The highlight of the visit was Ashley testifying for a congressional committee. As she spoke, our daughter fought back tears.
“As our nation’s leaders,” she said, “I respectfully ask that you support the implementation of the national Alzheimer’s plan and that you fund the president’s budget request of an additional $100 million for Alzheimer’s this year. In my family, music was always a part of our home, and we are still playing. We knew at the beginning that Alzheimer’s doesn’t rob you of the things you love right away, but the disease will keep getting worse and there aren’t any medications today that can stop it. Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs people of their lives while they are still living them, and it robs families of the people they love while they are still standing in front of their eyes. I think a person’s life is comprised of memories, and that’s exactly what this disease takes away from you. Like the memory of my dad taking me fishing in Flagstaff when I was a little girl. Or playing banjo with my dad while he played guitar. Now when I play banjo with my dad, it’s getting harder for him to follow along, and it’s getting harder for him to recall my name. It’s hard to come to the realization that someday my dad might look at me, and I will be absolutely nothing to him. We need to find a cure for this because we are not the only family affected. So much pain should not exist in the world. Let’s work together to end Alzheimer’s.”
At that time, $400 million was being spent on all neurological diseases per year. I’m glad to report that in 2019 the National Institute of Health is expected to spend $3.08 billion on Alzheimer’s research alone.
Taken from Gentle on My Mind: In Sickness and in Health with Glen Campbell by Kim Campbell. Copyright © 2020 by Kim Campbell. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.GentleOnMyMindBook.com