What Philip Seymour Hoffman Taught Me

The news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was delivered to me by my 17 year-old son. Fascinated with the entertainment industry, our son keeps quite current all things related to film, stage and screen. Usually his reports are given at lightning speed, the excitement in his voice difficult to contain. On Saturday, however, he spoke in somber tones.



“Mom. Philip Seymour Hoffman died. They found him in his apartment.”

And then later, “It was drugs. . An overdose.”

As the story unfolded, my son provided updates and details…”He had three kids. The police found a lot of heroin. Bags of it in his apartment…”

And of course, the inevitable opinions began to pepper Facebook and Twitter. Some people were respectful, and others lauded Mr. Hoffman’s great talent, calling him one of the best actors of his generation. Still others bemoaned the epidemic of substance abuse that plagues not only Hollywood, but every neighborhood in this country.

Finally, I began to read some comments that expressed irritation …people who were weary of the praise for Hoffman’s giftedness. They cited weakness. Lack of character. Selfishness. “He left three kids behind without a father.”

That’s when I started really hurting. Because I really don’t think that Philip Seymour Hoffman wanted to leave his kids without a father.

And I began to wonder…If Philip Seymour Hoffman had a different disease, like diabetes or melanoma (both of which can be caused, in part, by an individual’s lifestyle and choices) would we “blame” him?

Addiction is disease. A really horrible, life-long, chronic disease. I’ve seen it tear apart families, destroy careers and annihilate hopes and dreams.  I’ve celebrated as people have gained a measure of victory over it, and cried when they experience a relapse. I’ve listened to parents sob as they confront a child and watched as families deal with the courts and jail and fines…and utter disappointment.

Addiction poses a constant threat to health. Alcoholics Anonymous encourages its members to take “One day at a time.” And yet, “sometimes,” confided one young person, “It’s really more like one minute at a time.” 

And while I know and love so many who have been injured and angered through addiction, I also know I can’t possibly imagine the torture this disease inflicts upon those caught in its grip. And Philip Seymour Hoffman, with his brilliance and brokenness, reminded me that throwing stones in speculation only bruises and belittles.

I’m thankful Philip Seymour Hoffman inspired so many people through his great gifts as an actor. I’m also thankful that he  was honest about his disease. He said once, in an interview,  ” I’m afraid I’ll be the kind of actor who thought he would make a difference and didn’t. Right now, though, I feel like I made a little bit of difference.”

And finally, I’m glad that the Hollywood and Broadway communities are recognizing him for his immense talent. Hopefully that will provide some measure of comfort to his family as they wade through unspeakable grief.

One minute at a time.


Five Facts for Friday {1-31-14}


Oh, Friday…it is so good to see you after a very long, cold week at Jury Duty!

5 Facts for Friday:
1. Jury duty: A tiny bit of Law and Order and a whole lot of study hall.
2. If you happen to be called for jury duty, I hope you have friends like Kelly Montgomery Hoy, who will chauffeur you to the Justice Center, and Molly Priest Gebler who will bring you cake all the way from New York.
3. Texting and Twitter have rendered the scrolling school cancellations on TV practically obsolete.
4. Neil Barringham said, “The grass is always greener where you water it.”
5. Super Bowl! I’m mostly looking forward to chatting with my friends during the game…what’s your favorite Super Bowl-ish thing?

Tomorrow I’ll be teaching at the North Coast District Leadership Academy…maybe I will see you there!

Have a wonderful weekend~


Five Facts for Friday {1-24-14}


1. I have jury duty next week, which I hope will be very Law and Order-ish.
2. Congratulations to my wonderful in-laws, Barbara and Win Wetherbee, who recently celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary! Truly an example of how commitment, love, friendship, and lots of laughs fuel a lasting marriage.
3. You are probably surprised to know I was not chosen to be the Brown’s head coach. I am hoping to be their hospitality coordinator. However, I will require a headset. It’s in my contract.
4. Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
5. Both of my kids have recently demonstrated grace and resilience, qualities I admire so much. What qualities do you admire in your kids, family or friends?
Happy Friday, friends…stay cozy and warm!