Yesterday’s news related to the death of Mary Tyler Moore saddened me. Who knows, maybe my attachment to Mary Tyler Moore dates back to the Dick Van Dyke show in the 1960s. She played “Laura”, the wife of Rob Pietre (Dick Van Dyke), a writer for the fictious “Alan Brady Show”. The plots provided an inside look at the television station’s operation including how the show was written and produced. The sitcom primarily featured employees of the television station and of course, the family life of Rob and Laura Pietre and their son, Richie.
It was family entertainment at its finest. It included a lot of humor. I remember that it was easy to like the characters on the show. It was also evident that the characters on the show liked each other. Apparently, in real life, the same was true. Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke remained friends for over 60 years. Learning of Moore’s death yesterday, he stated: “There are no words. She was THE BEST! We always said that we changed each other’s lives for the better.”
How well do you know the people with whom you work? Is there anyone with whom you’ve worked that changed your life for the better? I can look back over my life and think of any number of people who mentored, provided support and assisted me at different junctures in my life. Honestly, I have had the good fortune of being surrounded by capable, credible, and highly compassionate folks all of my life. Somehow it was a gift that I was given beyond my deserving and I’ve never taken any of it for granted.
My first supervisor at the Tom Green County Child Welfare Department certainly falls into that category. We’ve now been friends for over forty-six years. The level of respect and value I associate with her friendship continues to enrich my life. I also continue to maintain contact with another previous supervisor and our beginning goes back decades as well. Regardless of our respective roles, the friendships formed provided a foundation for personal growth and enrichment. They certainly changed my life for the better.
What’s true of them has been true of a score of other people I’ve had the good fortune of knowing. When friends surround a person they discover a dimension of life that sustains and supports. We were created to live in community. Life is best lived as a team effort. No man is an island unto himself. At least, that is the way John Donne (1517-1631)expressed it:
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
I’ve never paid a lot of attention to leading celebrities in show business, but somehow Mary Tyler Moore seemed different. Maybe in character, she was someone I’d like to know, but I’ve always been a fan. She was a lady with class. I somehow had the sense that she wasn’t acting, she was type casting. Okay, so I’m weird.
Her role in Ordinary People that was released thirty-seven years ago continues to be within easy access in my memory bank. It was an emotionally powerful film about an upper middle-class family who’s life quickly unravels following the accidental death of one of their two sons. The surviving son subsequently attempts suicide.
The movie effectively portrays the family’s struggle to find their way through the overwhelm precipice of despair and heartache. It is almost a no-win situation for each individual in the family. The family characteristics are many including: denial, survivor’s guilt, communication issues, post traumatic stress disorder and a host of other stressful and debilitating family features.
Though it was just a movie, it had a profound impact. It also was chosen as Movie of the Year in 1980. I’d say it falls into the category of one of the most impactful movies I’ve ever seen. Mary Tyler Moore played the wife and mother of the two sons in the film.
I remember reflecting on the film for weeks after seeing the movie. I guess for that matter, I still am. Everytime I think of the movie, I think of the emotional impact. It is not a feel-good movie, but it cast a fair picture of the complexity of grief and unmet emotional needs.
I remember being saddened shortly after seeing the movie to learn from the news that Richard, age 24, the son of Mary Tyler Moore subsequently died from a gunshot to the head. He was her only child. Initially the news report was one of suicide. It was not until now that I discovered the report was later changed to “accidental gunshot”. Reportedly, the model of shotgun was later taken off the market because of its “hair trigger”.
I think Dick Van Dyke got it right when he said: “She was the Best!”
All My Best!