Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke who became a household name with The Patty Duke Show recently passed away. Patty’s roles include The Miracle Worker, Glee and The Love Boat. She also served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild from1985-1988. Patty’s public battle with bipolar disorder and suicide attempts led her to become a mental health advocate. We sat down with Patty’s son, actor Sean Astin two years ago and he shared about how she helped develop his personal faith and how her battle with bipolar disorder shaped how he parents his children.
Sean’s family background includes Catholicism, Buddhism and Judaism. We asked him what influenced him to choose Christianity.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7
“When I was a little kid we observed Easter and Christmas in the modern commercial spirit. But my mom [Actress Patty Duke] also made sure we would go to a midnight mass and during Hanukkah she would light a menorah even though we weren’t Jewish. She really wanted us to appreciate multi-faith expression in the world. By the time I got to the fifth grade I wasn’t keeping up with the other students – I had skipped a grade, then I had to be held back a grade to be with the kids I was supposed to be with – so I was not in good shape academically. My mom shifted me from public school to Catholic school. In 6th, 7th and 8th grade, which are really, really formative years in anyone’s life, I was the only kid there that wasn’t Catholic…So I think I was more earnest about trying to understand Catholicism, or push myself towards some feeling of faith than a lot of he kids around me who had grown up with it…There was a moment in 2002 or 2003 where people talk about a “come to Jesus moment” and I had resisted that idea for a long time. I remember telling my wife’s grandfather who really wanted me to be baptized…he would always ask at gatherings, “So are you going to get baptized? Have you thought about getting baptized?” He was very persistent about the whole thing and I just said, “Now that I am an adult, I am not going to fake it. I’m not going to pretend to believe something that I don’t believe.” Then somehow a conversation about miracles came up and I said, “I promise you this, if a miracle ever happens where that moment of faith, or belief, presents itself, I promise that I won’t ignore it and I’ll keep myself open to the idea.” So that was like in the late 90s probably and then in the early 2000s there was an experience that I had that is too long to explain in an interview, but basically where it struck me at one moment that choosing to allow the life and teachings of Jesus to come into your soul or spirit – there was no reason that couldn’t happen. It sort of struck me like that. Like, “Wait a minute, I am working to construct this barrier where one doesn’t need to exist.” My problem after that was just a question of vocabulary with others about what my faith is. I feel pretty strong in my faith, and I feel it is unimpeachably solid…”
Sean shared with us about his upbringing and how his experiences affect the way he parents.
“ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
“My mother is a famous sufferer of bi-polar disorder. The radical range of emotions that we experienced as kids, my brother and I, filled us with empathy for my mom and her experiences of not being able to control her behavior; at least up until the time she got into a good medical program. I definitely wanted to try and avoid that with my kids, the radical, emotional highs and lows. I’m a shoot-from-the-hip type of guy. I go with my instincts, which is sometimes fantastic, and sometimes terrible. The way I inoculated myself from being a father that I wouldn’t want to be, is by marrying a woman who is just rock solid. My wife is just – I wouldn’t say she is perfect because then it seems schmaltzy – but anyone who has ever met, or ever known her, ever, would tell you that she is as good and decent and solid a human being that you could possibly have out there. When she has a moment – like an “off-the-reservation” moment – it’s thrilling for everyone to see that she is mortal.”
Whether it is a celebrity or a loved one, a death is a reminder that our days are not promised and the way that we live here on earth will be our legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sean Astin and Patty Duke’s family that they would be comforted and drawn closer to God during this time.
Leave a legacy! God has given each of us time, talent and treasure. We are just stewards of these resources. When we stand before God, we will be asked what we did with what was entrusted to us. Pray and ask God how He wants you to use those things to impact His kingdom.
Become an advocate. Whether it is a mental health issue, physical disability or something else you have struggled with, you can help others get resources, change legislation, or just listen. Being an advocate takes many forms and everyone has an opportunity to be one. Don’t feel like you have to be perfect to be an advocate. God can use you right where you are at to be His spokesperson and be a catalyst for change.
If you know someone that has lost a friend or family member, reach out and offer to serve them. A meal, babysitting or cleaning can help someone that is going through the grief process. Don’t forget to ask how you can pray for them!
To read our entire interview with Sean Astin click here.