Martin Short's wife, Nancy Dolman, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. They celebrated her life by throwing a party instead of a funeral service.
For most of us, age and experience teach us about loss but not all of us may be prepared to confront it right away. The grief of losing a spouse likely stays with us forever, bringing the fear of losing others as well. But, it can also teach us to remember and cherish the memories of the loved one who left.
Comedian Martin Short, 70, has made us laugh since the 1970s and continues to do so even though he went through the pain of losing his spouse. The Canadian-American actor was married to Nancy Dolman, a Canadian actress and singer. Her most notable role was as Annie Selig Tate on the ABC sitcom Soap. She passed away at the age of 58 on August 21, 2010.
Dolman had ovarian cancer, which was discovered in 2007. She wanted to keep her life and death private and forewent a funeral service, according to Heavy.com. "She had once said to me, I don’t want a funeral and I don’t want a memorial. Throw a party… or not!" said the Three Amigos actor.
She was cremated and he celebrated her life with his children by going out on a boat and sprinkling her ashes in the water. Then, all four of them jumped into the water. They also threw a party for which friends like Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, and Paul Shaffer were invited. "We turned it into a Christmas party… and it was a celebration," he added.
Short and Dolman met in 1972 during the run of Godspell, a musical, and got married in 1980. Losing her wasn't the first time that he experienced deep loss. Before he turned 20, he had lost his eldest brother and his parents. Heavy.com quoted his biography, I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend, in which the Father of the Bride actor said, "Something terrible can happen to you, and yet, the day after this something terrible, the sun still rises, and life goes on. And therefore, so must you."
In the 2014 book, Short said that even though Dolman passed away, he’s still "very much married" to her and that they were so connected that he plays out conversations they would have if she were alive. He writes, "So some night, when I’m really missing her, I’ll grab a rum and Coke at twilight and sit on the couch on our front porch, or perhaps upstairs, on the balcony off of our bedroom, with the Pacific Ocean in view."
Short and Dolman have three adopted children, Henry, 30, Oliver, 27, and Katherine, 24, who were very young when their mother passed away. "Our marriage was a triumph," he told AARP. "So it’s tough. She died in 2010, but I still communicate with her all the time. It’s ‘Hey Nan,’ you know?” he said. "How would she react to this decision or that, especially regarding our three kids," the actor added.
Dolman had taken a break from her career to raise the kids when his career took off and he still feels the presence of the woman who devoted her life to her family. "I believe that when people die, they zoom into the people that love them," he told AARP. "The idea that it just ends, and don’t speak of them—that’s wrong….to me, she’s still here," he added.
"At the same time, her death emboldened me to take risks. With real tragedy, you become a little more daring. It’s the yin to the yang: the positive part of life’s dark side," he added.
Short's career also took a backseat between 2008 and 2010, which is when he threw himself into work again. In January 2019, he went on a tour with one of his closest friends, Steve Martin, for their show, Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life, according to People.com.
With age, Short has become wiser, he says. "You would like to think that you’ll have the wisest version of yourself on the last day you live," he said.