Dear Mary: Where the Heck Are You When We Need You Most?

Hats off to a supporter of journalism, the truth and giving voice to women, Mary Tyler Moore. We need you more than ever, particularly in the world of mental health advocacy.

Now that you are gone, and I’ve had time to let the news sink in, it feels like someone just told me there is a limited supply of dignity and humor left in the world.

I am a Gen X’er who grew up hoping that there was a newsroom out there just waiting for a Mary like me to arrive. (So what that I was actually a foot shorter and never could meet a deadline with the grace that you did.)

I can’t remember exactly when, but I would bet the day I vowed to be like you, Mary, I was leaning up against the horrible brown couch in my parents living room doing homework or writing copy for the school newspaper on a wobbly wagon wheel coffee table. (Yes, just like the one in When Harry Met Sally. I am so not kidding. Your apartment was much cooler.) I was probably watching an episode of MTM. I’d guess I was 15. I did make it, after all.

But your legacy means more to me than that. You were also a huge mental health advocate and fundraiser for diabetes, two no less important reasons to pay tribute to you, both as a person and as an icon of women in journalism. Your starring role in Ordinary People was a signal to me that you understood the complexities of how mental health hits a family head on. Basically, no matter who is in crisis, you are all part of the ride back from hell.

It’s hard to count how many times in my life I have rolled my eyes and said HAIL MARY at work. I only watched Ordinary People a few times but it is seared into my brain. If you are too young or too old to remember it, here’s a clip that’s unforgettable.

Your role as Beth, the mother who is at odds with her family over the best way to grieve the loss of a family member, showed me that you had suffered your own losses and you were willing to share with the public what you knew about love, loss and marriage. I remember how I particularly liked the way you sobbed—with dignity, humor and smoke coming out of your ears. I was mesmerized when you were outraged and ridiculously happy when you got your way. You gave the word group hug it’s true meaning.

Thank you. You were different. You were genius. You were what I call crazysmart, both in real life and on screen. As it should be. Thank you.

Your fan, Denise