Glen Campbell’s newest, and likely last, song will make you cry and give you comfort, especially if like me, you know people with Alzheimer’s Disease, or other forms of dementia. Titled “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, the song invites us to think deeply about what it is we really mourn as we see a loved one drift out of the world. Is it their pain, or ours? I wrestled with that question a lot as my father was dying, and wrestle with it still as others I love suffer with dementia.
How do we measure our response to any tragedy that befalls someone we love? How much are we crying for them, and how much for ourselves? How much over what they are losing and how much over what we are losing?
Crying over the loss of what we want, or what we wish we still had, is different than crying with someone over the pain which they are experiencing about their own condition. Neither is inappropriate, but they are not the same either.
As Campbell so movingly sings, he will not miss those he loves or the things which he can no longer do, because he will not remember either. He will be spared the pain of feeling the loss of what was.
As tragic as it is to see someone we love lose so much of who they were, seeing them released from that pain is no small thing, and accepting that fact is, in some real way, a gift. Appreciating that gift, doesn’t mean that we love them any less, I don’t think. It might even be a hint that we love them more than we ever knew – that we love the person who they are now, at least as much as we loved the person who they were. That discovery really can be a gift – both for us and for the patient that we love.
Brad Hirschfield is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Brad has been featured on ABC’s Nightline UpClose, PBS’s Frontline, Fox News and National Public Radio. He wrote a long-standing column, “For God’s Sake,” for the Washington Post, and has also written for The Huffington Post and Beliefnet.com. He authored the book, You Don?t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Brad also serves as President of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.