This was a rough week for American music fans, with the death of country and western icon Glen Campbell.
But what made it even tougher is that we all know this proud American legend didn’t slip away peacefully after one more encore.
He fought — and lost — a public battle with Alzheimer’s, one of the most devastating diseases of aging, and he let America watch his battle every step of the way.
He did a “farewell” tour after the diagnosis where he struggled to remember his own songs, and he gave interviews where he spoke frankly about the toll of the disease.
His family even let a news crew into their home just months ago, showing how the Alzheimer’s had robbed him of everything right down to his dignity as he yelled at pictures on the walls.
Glen Campbell wasn’t trying to cash in on his name and reputation while he could.
He was a man of dignity and pride, and he was already living comfortably with a $50 million fortune from decades of chart-topping tunes and a hit TV show.
Campbell could’ve taken the quiet way out, retiring without a word six years ago before anyone knew what was going on.
“Here’s a guy, an iconic musician, who was faced with having to hang up his guitar, his career is over,” James Keach, who made a film about Campbell, told the Los Angeles Times. “But instead, he says, ‘I ain’t done yet. I’m going out to show what this disease is’ because he wants to change the conversation.”
That he did, and he did it in two ways that leave behind a gift even bigger than his powerful music.
He left behind a PLAN OF ATTACK for anyone facing Alzheimer’s — two steps we all can copy to live LONGER and BETTER, even in the grips of late-stage disease.
First, he showed the power of persistence. When his mind started to slip, he got help fast. Docs first told him it was cognitive impairment. But as it quickly got worse, he didn’t rest on his bottom.
He went back to the doctors, took more tests, and pushed to make sure they got it right — making sure they found the disease as early as possible to give him the best chance he could at living longer and better.
And second, he kept doing what he loved while he still could, and for as long as he could. He recorded. He toured. He kept busy.
This wasn’t just for show.
His doctors said that high level of activity and keeping engaged helped to slow the progression of the disease.
When he was diagnosed, he was told he might have as few as two or three years left.
Instead, his activity and engagement helped keep him around for six and a half years. At one point, he even traveled to Washington to testify before Congress, as he lobbied for Alzheimer’s patients even as the disease was clearly already taking hold.
That, my friend, isn’t just a performer.
That’s an honest-to-goodness American hero.
Rest in peace, Glen Campbell.