AN OPEN THANK YOU NOTE TO WILL FERRELL
Dear Mr. Ferrell,
I would like to thank you for severing ties to a film that uses Alzheimer’s as comedic material. I’m sure yesterday was not a great day for you, given the public backlash against this project. It wasn’t a great day for a lot of people. I wish you could read some of the letters that poured into my website — actually you can, if you’d like to go to my website. I didn’t have room to post all of them, there are hundreds more. Most of them said nothing about my father but instead told in heartbreaking detail what their own situations are in losing a loved one to dementia.
The man whose mother got so disoriented she went outside, locked herself out of the house in the dead of winter and froze to death. The couple who are caring for their daughter, in her 40s, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s. The woman whose husband of 61 years has no idea who she is. The stories go on and on and they will break your heart. I felt obligated to read all of them. Maybe you have some idea now how widespread this disease is, how many millions of people it affects, and how profoundly un-humorous it is. We may never meet, I may never know your reasons for dropping out of this project, but I will remain grateful that you did so.
On a personal note, the subject matter of the film exhumed the theory that my father was suffering from dementia in his second term of office. I got a few of those letters too — cruel, arrogant, and mis-informed. No one who has claimed to know this has a medical degree, nor did they ever meet my father. The doctors who did treat him have dismissed the notion, and they know much more than anyone else.
However, the bigger picture is what matters. If you had been planning to do a comedic film about a fictional character with Alzheimer’s, my letter to you would have been the same. This is a disease far bigger than one person. It is, at the moment, incurable and unstoppable. It is the shadow that lurks around every corner, and no one knows who it will claim next.