I have been a fan of comedian Kathy Griffin for many years, and part of enjoying Kathy’s journey is loving her mom. Watching Kathy’s show, “My Life on the D-List,” watching her comedy shows, and listening to her read her autobiography, “Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin,” you develop an attachment to her mother.
Always right in the background, supporting Kathy through every stage of her life, and being a rich source of comedy for her shows, Maggie Griffin became a star in her own right, without any intention of doing so. On January 3, Kathy revealed that her mother has dementia and is no longer able to fully communicate with her.
Maggie Griffin is 98 years old and has always been a spirited and enjoyable character, right behind her outrageous and colorful daughter. It is genuinely heartbreaking to see her light dim, even a little.
In Kathy’s tweet series, she said, “As heartbreaking as this is, I feel the need to share some important info about my mom Maggie. I’ve always been honest with you all, but this one is really hard. The pic below, taken in September, was the last time I was able to have a proper/coherent conversation with her” and “I want to assure you all that she is not in pain and she is getting the best 24-hour care. In terms of how she is now, at this point she only knows my name and I love you. I know many of you know what that reality is like…I’m still grappling with it.”
Many of us know just what she is going through. I lived with my grandfather during my high school years and when I was 15 he had a sudden and devastating stroke. Within a year he completely forgot who I was, mistaking me for the teenage version of my father. I spent every day caring for him, cleaning him, feeding him, and struggling to accept that I eventually became a stranger to him every time he saw me. He passed shortly before my 18th birthday. There is no way of preparing for this, and one can only endure it with strength and love. She has both of those qualities in abundance.
Kathy has done everything in her power, behind the scenes, to take care of her family and especially her parents. She sadly lost her father a few years ago and one of his last interactions with her was to write on a piece of paper encouragement and celebration of an upcoming performance. She always made sure her parents would be allowed on set when she did TV shows and retells hilarious stories in her autobiography of her parents bantering with George Clooney on the set of “ER.”
Her parents worked incredibly hard to build a life for their kids and supported Kathy every step of the way. She always kept them close throughout her success. Although I know the pain, I know this is particularly devastating to her and my prayers are with her.
Maggie Griffin, also known as the second-prettiest girl at Presentation Parish (a running joke in their family from her high school days), raised five children. She worked as a hospital administrator, and Kathy credits her and her father for frugality. Kathy referenced her mother as a role model throughout her career, even impersonating her in early comedy routines.
Kathy asked followers to share photos with Maggie, a particularly enjoyable aspect to Maggie of her daughter’s fame. She tweeted, “If you ever met my mom and asked for a photo, you should know it was a pleasure as much for her as it was for you. She loved making people happy and making people laugh. And trust me, I know she was the bigger star…”
In 2017, Kathy shaved her head in support of her sister, Joyce, who had cancer and sadly passed that year. Her mother commented, “My daughter Kathleen Mary is a wonderful human being,” over the gesture. While she often portrays to the world a snarky, sharp, and aggressive political critic of the president, Kathy Griffin’s humor, kindness, and personal struggles often go on discreetly behind the scenes. She has always been careful to ensure that her antics did not negatively impact her family and she is fiercely protective of everyone she cares about. In regular life, she is a good person.
Too often we get caught up in the pettiness and vindictiveness of politics, and certainly Kathy has positioned herself in a very specific spotlight in that regard. But we must always remember the people behind the names and the controversies. Beyond all of this and our never-ending fighting with one another, we all go home to a family and people we love, and we all face loss and tragedy. Remembering to be kind matters a great deal in these times, and we should reach out in love and support, no matter what divided us previously, even if we go right back to fighting afterwards.
The next year will surely be very difficult for Kathy. Although many of us reject her style of political commentary, I hope we can all keep in mind what is happening in her real life. She, like all of us, deserves love and kindness, and I genuinely hope she feels comforted by the good wishes so many are sending her. I hope she finds peace and connection with her mother in this time and knows how much her mother loves her.
Her experience is universal in so many ways, and so many of us feel connected to her in this moment because of that. Please keep Kathy Griffin in your prayers and thoughts. Make sure to share a kind word of hope and encouragement. She is just a person like the rest of us. She needs kindness too.