NEW YORK (AP) — After months of seeing his mother in pain and holding her hand when she died, Sean Astin turned his mourning over Patty Duke’s death Tuesday into a bit of celebration after he saw the flood of tributes in her honor.
“It’s just such an affirmation of the best part of her and such a relief to be able to enjoy that as opposed to the pain that everyone was feeling,” Astin said in a phone interview with The Associated Press, hours after his Oscar- and Emmy-winning mother died at age 69. “We’re so grateful to her for living a life that generates that amount of compassion and feeling in others. So, this last hour’s a joy moment for me.”
Duke died from sepsis due to a ruptured intestine at a hospital in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, where she had lived for the last 25 years with husband Michael Pearce.
Astin, one of her three children, said she had dealt with a multitude of ailments over the years, including emphysema after years of smoking. The actor talked about her pain, her triumphs, and what her legacy might be, among other thoughts he shared about his famous mother.
“There was so much suffering. She really, really suffered in a way that — we were desperate to help relieve her suffering, and so it’s just a blessing that she’s not suffering anymore.
“She had a lot of different things that she went through, a lot of different ailments. Several of them you thought, ‘Oh, this is a dire one,’ and then she would beat it.
“She talked a lot about her heart bypass, her heart surgery. Obviously her bipolar disorder was very public but she had a lot of things that were plaguing her and she finally got to a place where things were OK, and then this episode happened where her lower intestine basically ruptured and then there was septicemia. So she was alert and she was able to talk to the surgeons when she went in and that was a very good and healthy process. It was clear how serious it was. ‘This is a very, very sick woman,’ the doctor said and so everyone knew that it was a potentially fatal moment for her and she came out on the other side of the surgery … So from Thursday until this morning at 1:20 a.m (it) was a really, really, really hard process. It was hard for her, it was hard for the people who love her to help her, it was hard for the professionals.”
ON HER MARRIAGE:
“The true story of her life isn’t her work and it isn’t her advocacy, it’s the love relationship she’s had with her husband Mike for the last 30 years. … He was a drill sergeant in the Army when they met and he became her 30-year project, and she finally in her life had a protector. And so she showed him the world and he took care of her and until this morning at 1:20 they were connected with a bond that is impossible to describe.”
MORE THAN AN ACTRESS:
“Her career ebbed and flowed and sometimes she was stressed about it and sometimes she was at peace with it, and the she’d get to do something that she could sink her teeth into and reminded her of what she was capable of and she had her speeches, her mental health speeches. She literally traveled all over the country and lobbied Congress … she was a blistering advocate for her cause and that was just the biggest and most important cause. She worked on behalf of so many causes, fundraisers and grand marshals in parades. She did it all. She was president of the union, the Screen Actors Guild, and she cared about the union. She cared about the members. She wasn’t interested in the politics; she was interested in the results for the members. That’s why she was loved. She was re-elected in a landslide.”
ON HER LEGACY:
“I think maybe the most important part of her legacy is her acting work. Above and beyond anything, the reason any of the other stuff is possible in terms of the scope of the impact that she was able to have with people was her talent and her work and her work ethic, her discipline. She worked extremely hard.”
“The biggest impact, the most successful experience that she had was confronting her own bipolar diagnosis and then using it as a catalyst to help other people.
“There’s a collective acknowledgement that she is a warrior and you watch this 4 foot 10, tiny imp of a lady who’s more powerful than the greatest military leaders in history. I’d put her up against Napoleon and she’d beat him. When she’d look at you with her eyes, if she was angry, she was terrifying. She would terrify big teamsters and could sit opposite a table with executives and if she was right and she had the authority … she was impressive. People know that about her and they revere that in her.”