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‘Tis the Season….Happy Birthday Doris Day! A reflection on the actress’s spirituality

Mary Anne Barothy, author of Hawthorne’s Day at a Time: An Indiana Girl’s Sentimental Journey to Doris Day’s Hollywood and Beyond

Seems like for the past several years, as we get close to April 3rd, the rag magazines begin to run some sad and odd stories to “celebrate” Doris Day’s upcoming birthday.  I was just in a long check-out line at the grocery and spotted the screaming headline, “Doris Day Tragedy at 97!” on one.  Of course they try to make Doris the victim of some made-up scenarios.  No one’s life is perfect, and Doris, who actually shied away from the “Girl Next Door” moniker, is the first to admit life happens and you move on. Despite negative things happening in her life, she moved on and didn’t let life knock her down. Frequently she would comment if something negative happened, “I have a round bottom and I bounce back.”

When I lived with Doris in the 1970s everything was not always “hunky-dory”— but life happened and she moved on. We had great times together and I sometimes still pinch myself wondering how I was so blessed to spend time with her, serving as her secretary and living in her home for a period of years in the ‘70s.  Guess it was just meant to be, and as she sang, “Que sera, sera.”  I admire Doris for her strong will to keep going, no doubt part of why she is still with us after all these years.

But also, Doris has always had a strong faith and maintained a positive attitude despite what may have been happening in her life.  I was living with her when she received a call about her son Terry’s being in a horrendous motorcycle accident.  She broke down in tears, but was determined to get to Terry’s bedside at the hospital in Hemet, California.  I drove her to Hemet, about two hours from Beverly Hills, and while we were on the road, she was somber and praying for her son. I was so impressed with her very strong faith, knowing what she was going through and not really knowing what to expect. The motorcycle accident shattered both of his legs and required him to be hospitalized for six months. She made frequent trips to Hemet to be at his bedside until he was released and took up his life again.

Another time I saw first-hand her faith in action was when her dear friend, actor and co-star, Billy DeWolfe, was failing. We visited him in a Los Angeles hospital; she took up his hand at his bedside.  Despite her tears, her beautiful smile, hard as the situation was, calmed Billy down and they just held hands. You could see a calmness come over his face. It was later that night she received the call from the hospital that Billy was gone. Losing people is never easy, but she had an intense faith in God that helped her through difficult times.

Doris became a Christian Scientist during the time she was with her husband Marty Melcher. Christian Science emphasizes the faith that we can trust God completely and that the negative power of the material world has no real power because God has all the power there is. After Marty’s passing, though she left formal Christian Science, she continued her devoted faith in God. She and I visited a practitioner friend of hers for a Christmas dinner while I was with her.

I cherish the little red book Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy which Doris autographed and gave me in 1971.  In it she had a hand-written note saying “Oh thou hast heard my prayer —  and I am blessed.  This is thy High behest thou here and everywhere!!!”[from Mrs. Eddy’s poem “Come Thou.”]

Yes, Doris is turning 97 on April 3rd. I wish her all the best of health and happiness and just want to THANK HER for being an incredible role model for me and many others over the years with her positive attitude and beautiful smile. They come from deep within.  I am most grateful for the time I had the pleasure of working for and living with her…I saw first-hand the real down- to-earth yet spiritual Doris Day.

While the rag magazines continue to feature Doris periodically to peddle their stories, don’t take every word as gospel truth. Happy, Happy Birthday dear Doris— God bless you— you are much admired and loved by many all over the world.

To order Mary Anne Barothy’s book Day at a Time, click back to the Hawthorne website.