Glen Campbell: Alzheimer’s can’t silence the music

Singer’s Grammy appearance was powerful palliative

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My father’s last performance was recorded in the HBO documentary “The Alzheimer’s Project: The Memory Tapes.” It is chillingly similar to Mr. Campbell’s rousing performance at the Grammys. As you can see in the documentary, he didn’t know where to go after he finished singing his song, either, even though he knew exactly what to do during his performance onstage. Even though he - like Mr. Campbell - nailed every note, a member of the group had to lead him off the stage because he didn’t know where to go.

When we knew we were nearing the end of my father’s life two years ago, the entire family came to be with him. We surrounded his bed, sang songs with him, and played all his favorite CDs. He sang along, humming and sometimes whistling, until the very last hours. I know he felt comforted not just by our presence, but by the presence of his favorite songs, and his ability to sing along.

I hope that, as it was with my father, Glen Campbell will be able to sing and perform until it’s physically impossible, and that music will surround him until the end of his days and beyond — when he will know exactly where to go, as surely as if he were going home.

Mary Ellen Geist is the author of “Measure of the Heart: a Father’s Alzheimer’s, a Daughter’s Return” (Hachette). She is currently the morning anchor at FM News 101.1 in Chicago.

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