Carol Burnett has written a hauntingly beautiful and heartfelt memoir called ‘Carrie and Me,’ which details the life and untimely death of her oldest daughter, Carrie Hamilton, from cancer at the age of 38. The comedy legend traces their relationship in the book through diary entries and emails. What emerges is a portrait of a wonderfully vibrant woman with a great sense of humor and love of life, who died too soon.
FOX411: Was it hard writing this book or was it easy?
Carol Burnett: It was in between. It wasn’t that difficult because I felt I was fulfilling a promise, so that made me feel good. At first Carrie asked me to finish her story for her, ‘Sunrise in Memphis.’ She had the beginning, the end and part of the middle. I was unable to do it. They were her characters to write. Her request had been living with me for 10 years. I thought, ‘I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to write about our relationship, about what kind of person she was, because she was quite extraordinary.' I wanted the reader to get her essence, and then in part two I included Carrie’s unfinished story.
FOX411: You never get over the loss of a child.
Burnett: After the initial shock and anger and sadness, you get into a zone. The shock is gone of course after 11 years, one has to cope. After I kind of got over the shock I realized that Carrie would want me to continue and not be obsessed with the past and what happened, but to remember the good things and she’s still in my heart, so I learned to cope. No, you never get over it but you put one foot ahead of another one.
When she was in the hospital the last time one of the nurses came up to me in the hall and said, ‘Carrie just cheers us up when we go in the room.’ And I asked Carrie, ‘How can you be up and so cheerful?’ and Carrie said, ‘Every day I wake up and decide today I’m going to love my life.’ So I kind of take that mantra whenever I’m feeling down or low and say this is what Carrie was and how she thought and felt. I’m just going to love my life today and that helps.
FOX411: You also write about Carrie’s drug problems when she was a teen.
Burnett: We were very naive. This was a long time ago. It was three years out of her life from 14 to 17. She had always been the most popular girl in school, got all A’s, then she started to shoot up (in height), was skinny as can be, got braces, thought she was ugly and her grades started to slip, her self-esteem was in the dumper. I was chalking all of this up to puberty.
It wasn’t until she started getting more sullen and difficult to talk to that I literally snooped in her room. I advise you if your kids is acting differently - snoop - you’re the mother and I did and I found some marijuana in her room and I was devastated.
I was scared of her! If I came down too hard on her she might do worse, so I thought I’m just going to tell her know I love her, I’ll be her friend and try to talk her out of it. Well that doesn’t work. You have to be very diligent. She went into rehab and that took for a few months but then she slipped and I was even more devastated.
This time I got her into a rehab. She didn’t want to go. This time I thought I’m not going to be her friend because the drugs in her hate me. I’ve got to love her enough to let her hate me. Got her into a rehab, she was very angry, called me every name in the book. I thought that’s the drugs talking not my daughter. That’s some demon that we’re going to have to exorcize. This time it took. She got sober and stayed sober and we were best friends after that.