Well, not a lot. I adore him. He has never even heard of me. But there are three things we share …
First, the not-a-lot part. Martin Short is rich, famous, and funny. I pay for coffee with change scoured from the couch, have people in my own house ask what my name is again and the last time I told a joke, I heard crickets from as far away as Maine (and I’m in Nova Scotia.)
Yet the awesome Mr. Short and I have three very important things in common.
1. We are both proud Canadians
2. We are both proud parents, each with three children without whom life would not have been near as complete
3. We have seen the power of a story, a life story, to vanquish the shadows of grief and turn a final chapter into the NEXT chapter.
I just finished reading I Must Say, his life story written in collaboration with David Kamp and I must say … it was fascinating. His trail from middle class Hamilton, Ontario to zany star of the stage, television and silver screens was both blessed and bungled. Sometimes he landed the joke, part or project; sometimes he didn’t, usually because of those great mysterious forces that govern studio decisions or audience preferences. There is no explaining it, just dealing with it. And deal he did, hanging in there after every surprise turn and carving both a professional and personal niche in Hollywood society. But amid all the marquis lights and name dropping, one stood out: his wife Nancy, who was by his side for every step, decision, doubt, failure, anxious moment, and gloried award. So much was she a part of his story that … and spoiler alert if you’re like me and don’t keep up on celebrity news … it was impossible to believe that she was actually going to die. In fact, on live TV a couple of years later he was quizzed on the secrets to their successful marriage, and what keeps them together. The interviewer then, as I was while reading it, was oblivious to the fact that Nancy passed, in 2010. Always the gentleman, he didn’t correct the host on air, and went on to say the slip wasn’t her fault: he still felt married, and still felt his wife’s presence in his life. Then in 2014, he released this book, which in its final chapter outlines his plans for shows, tours and other things he will do as he navigates this new phase of life: single again at 60.
Now, I’m not a man of middle age or a widower, but this is where his path and mine align, at least for a time.
The year he lost his wife and the light went out on his life, I was finishing Finding Maria, and turning the light back on for someone who, like Martin, had a life full of work, family, and a wife who kept him grounded and gave him wings.
Until she died, taken suddenly by cancer, just like Nancy.
Years would go by with him functioning but missing something, a part of him in perpetual darkness, until by some circumstance we met, he shared his story, and I became the named writer to get it to print, even though we had worked together for more than a year before I realized the wife he referred to so casually, as a routine part of his life, had passed away years before. As Martin did with the interviewer, this gentleman did with me: held me not responsible for the slip, choosing instead to see that I was reacting to the obvious. His wife was still very much alive in his heart, and a part of his life. So we forged on and five years later, we are business partners and creators of a book series, in which the fourth book – Song of the Lilacs – contains his beloved wife’s story.
So often I have asked as our books took form, and again I ask as I finished reading Martin’s story:
Why did these two men survive their devoted partners, when so much of their success and joy was entwined with them? The answer is in the writing.
With each memory shared, a piece of a path was revealed; with each sentiment spoken aloud, a glimmer of light emerged. Simply put, life turned out to be not a random series of events and mistakes, but a journey, with much left for them to explore and share: talent, experience, compassion, wisdom, a sense of fun, and an inner strength revealed only by their survival of a loss so deep. The world needs them, and the process of sharing their stories has helped pull them from the depths and back, blinking, into the light.
As I said, I don’t have a lot in common with the humble legend Martin Short.
But we do have one connection. The power of the written word.
Thanks for reading.
Jennifer Hatt is author of the Finding Maria series.
Song of the Lilacs, Books Four, is now available. www.FindingMaria.com.