Could I BE any more human this week? I wrote the following two days ago and am sharing at the encouragement of Source to remind you how Source and our creative forces keep us shoulder to shoulder, spiraling past, present, and future in the wild, wild, peace-loving world.
Grief is such an unruly beast. I’ve had my share in this life, but the departure of Matt Perry is hitting me in every tender place right now. My heart flies to comfort his family, his dear friends, and everyone who was touched by his soft heart and staggering talent. I write to move through logjams of my emotions, so here I am, finally putting my humble flower in the bower of love for Matthew.
We’d met a few years before Friends at a poolside party I hosted at the old Ravenswood, where I lived at the time. I think Craig Bierko, who lived a big window below me, invited Matty, or maybe Hank Azaria did. 1990/1991? It was a hammock of time between The Famous Teddy Z (CBS) with Jon Cryer (and I) getting canceled and me coming into Herman’s Head (Fox) with Hank, Billy Ragsdale, (and many other gifted actors). Simply, we were living a quintessential young actor dream while I was learning to Silver Palette barbeque chicken in Hollywood (how long does chicken cook?) within a circle of the funniest, most brilliant people I could imagine. Matt was so effortlessly hilarious that I had to ask what he was working on. He said he had a development deal, and it was killing him because he “just wanted to work.” It’s one thing to have a dream and to make money for your talent (development deals are amazing), but to sit on the sidelines while your friends are having a blast onstage can be excruciating. I was certain something would break through for him and told him so.
I saw him from time to time later while we shot Herman’s Head. He, Craig, George Clooney, and Ollie Platt would slip in backstage to support Hank, but since I was juggling our new show, my new marriage, and then my first two pregnancies in seasons one and three, I didn’t hang out with him but for a minute here or there, only asking him how it was going. It was clear he was a star awaiting his perfect sky. That kind of funny was a magnetic orbit.
Small and blessed worlds; after three years of Herman’s Head, when I was offered to take over the role of Carol on Friends two days after giving birth to my baby, Kai, and saw Matty, I was thrilled. Though Friends hadn’t yet aired, I had been sent the pilot the night I came home from the hospital to help sway my maybe to a yes. I’ve long shared that after witnessing David Schwimmer’s comedic timing in the pilot, I knew I had to work with David, but seeing Matty and Jen in the pilot, too (she’d recurred as Herman’s little sister on Herman’s Head), it was a slam dunk. As soon as I saw Matty on set, I let him know I was certain the show was going to be a huge hit. Squealing with joy that he’d finally found his perfect home with Friends, I never stopped cheering them all on.
Two years later, Matty was an unwitting part of saving me from the deepest depression I’d ever known after I miscarried for the first time. I told him later how his comedy helped me heal while I wept sitting beside Hank off-stage as he and Matt worked out the Lay-Z Boy bit. And although he was compassionate in receiving this, he shook off his import. When many of us start out, we only want to play in serious, challenging dramas. But when it came down to it, it was not the Academy Award-winning historical films that saved me. It was phenomenal comedy that lifted me from my pain. I didn’t know Matty was in his own pain and drama cycle until years later when, at a spiritual event, a girlfriend of his begged me to help him. Maybe that’s why it’s hitting me so hard now. He helped me, yet I wasn’t able to return the favor. I sent messages but never heard back. I’m terrible at accepting help, too. I get it.
We know addiction in my family. Not everyone can or will admit they have a problem. Matty did. Eventually. Thank you, Jen, and everyone who stepped up there to encourage rehab. My father was an alcoholic who lived a long time, doing a lot of destruction before he found limited recovery with wine-in-a-box. There was a time in my early 20s when I dared fate, tried to blur out my pain, and could also drink almost anyone under the table. I stopped being stupidly proud of that and finally got so scared after blacking out that I realized I had to stop. The day after Matty’s passing is also horribly the anniversary of my dear godson/nephew’s suicide. Donald lost in his battle with depression, addiction, and shame at only 15. His equally sweet older brother, my nephew Steven, spiraled in sadness over Donald and succumbed to his own addiction and mental health devastation a few years later. Despite both coming from only the most supportive family and circle of friends, try as we might, we couldn’t save them. Addiction is a brutal disease, and mental health will forever trip through these minefields if we don’t stay on top of it.
We don’t know the reasons behind Matty’s passing yet. This is not to suggest he committed suicide. This is only to give context to the space of grief where my heart has been spun and how hard it can be when addiction takes hold. We only know through the grace of Matt’s own words that his body, mind, and spirit were kicked hard by addiction. He fought valiantly, he wrote eloquently, he gave lavishly, and he left under a spectacular moon in his beloved sky. We all wanted more time with him, so it makes his passing even more poignant. Matty wanted everyone not just to remember he was funny on Friends but that he helped people. He genuinely helped people even as he suffered. He helped me without even trying. How many thousands of others have stories like this?
I became so upset reading the commentaries on social media from various people, even former studio executives, talking about how they weren’t surprised or that they knew he was troubled from the get-go. This is trash talk, as bad as any rag. What good purpose does an opinion like that give when we are grieving over this loss? Matty is one who fell but kept getting up because he was not just loved but committed to loving back as hard as he could. He still has family and friends who are hurting. To anyone reading this far, please remember respect for the living as well as the man who is finally free and whose soul still only wants us to be okay, too.
Like you, I’ve heard so many stories in the last few days. Most good. Every tribute makes me cry all over again because the magic we saw on Friends was lightning in a bottle magic, and it still is comfort and joy to millions even all these years after we wrapped. Yet some of the newscasters tossed at this story, good God, is it any wonder our Friends have insulated into their protective cocoons again? It just breaks my heart so many have forgotten good old-fashioned compassion in these tender times. The warring in the world is atrocious enough. The gun violence is out of control, too, but this mean-spiritedness—could we all just grow up? Aren’t we all weary enough of the ugly, hating, and baiting trying-to-remain relevant people who have somehow lost their hearts along the way? I’m still locked out of Instagram due to hackers last week, and I’m okay with it right now. I think I need a little hiatus from this nasty flavor on Facebook, too. Thanks for understanding.
And thank you, kinder Friends, here, on the street, or writing DMs, for all your kind words and support. To be sure, there are many far, far closer to Matty than I. I am only sharing this because I am one of the people he helped when I was at my lowest. Remember that he was an earth angel, and as my friend in recovery shared with me, now he’s got a bigger meeting in heaven.
If Matty ever helped you laugh or rethink your own battles with depression or addiction, or if you’ve suddenly realized maybe you need an upgrade in your healthy habits, then please pay it forward and take better care of one another than ever before. Take care of yourself, too, and remember you also deserve peace, respect, and a safe and supportive circle of friends who become like family because you, too, choose health, peace, and kindness over anything else.
If you, or anyone you know, is battling depression or addiction, there is wonderful and confidential help for you at the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
I don’t know where the family is directing donations yet, (please add if you know), but I do know that Matthew was a champion for the Lili Claire Foundation for more than a decade after our beloved Friends casting director, Leslie Litt, lost her baby, Lili Claire. Perhaps you can give a here, too, as Matty did.
UPDATE 11.5.23: Since I wrote this letter, on the day of his funeral, Matthew’s family announced the creation of the Matthew Perry Foundation. The Matthew Perry Foundation is the realization of Matthew’s enduring commitment to helping others struggling with the disease of addiction. It will honor his legacy and be guided by his own words and experiences and driven by his passion for making a difference in as many lives as possible.
It is Saturday morning now in California, and I thank you, Friends, for reading and feeling into the folds of my heart. What continues to humble me is that in every breath, there is a fresh opportunity to live with greater integrity, heart, truth, and compassion. Life is rarely pristine.
How we choose to go forward as people war around us is paramount to our evolution.
More truth: Have I made mistakes in my life? Yes. Have I passed every test? No. Do I still trip and fall? Yes. I still can’t walk through walls with this physical body, either. Try as I might. (My broken foot is 50% better, thanks.) Can I speed heal myself? Yes. Do I practice this? Not enough. I need reminders, too. What always helps? Dancing with Source. I’m healthiest/best when I am dancing every day. Do I cry? Of course. Tears are a speedy solvent for transformation, just as is laughter and love. But even as I saw my Friend, Matty, pop up two hours before his passing had been announced, changing the words of my FB post about the stars’ aspect (oh. my. god. I JUST got this!) to the traditional Friends greeting even though I wrote, “How are you doing?” I sometimes feel confusion. Twice I tried to change “the cosmic spellchecker” back, but before I tried a third time, I heard, “Leave it. There’s a reason.” Source and Matty wanted me to have a public breadcrumb to remind me Source and our friends on all planes are always messaging. IMs are flying! He came to wink and smile, “Sibbett!”
I bumble and bump around life as plain Jane, but when I dance with Source, the light pours in with only love… so much sweet, overwhelmingly beautiful love.
Matty came into our Quanta Circle the next day after he passed, and in the Meta-tation immediately following to “sit,” smile, and share he was fine, and asked if I could “deliver a few messages while we were here?” Let me know if he visits with you, too.
And even smiling and laughing now, my human heart still aches for one more hug for all. Goodness knows we came on this planet to feel all these things. This is human juice. Could I BE any more grateful?
I hope you will join me in the next dance.
Blue Skies and Blessings,
VIDEO HELLO While the cover seems to be torn off this video, I wanted to share a segment of the aforementioned Meta-tation that I now call: The One With the Dog and the Friend Who Came to Visit. Ah… Life and love in all its rich hilarity. I hope if you choose to watch that, you can feel only joy in how Source, Blue, and our unseen friends sometimes come to say hello. While this video can’t play here, know I’ll post it on the Sparkling Circle platform soon in its entirety. You are welcome to see this for free, of course, via the Sparkling Circle. Links below.
Expanded Quanta Circle
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