Most of us know Tracy Morgan best from his years on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. He has dedicated his adult life to making people laugh so fans must be saddened but, not necessarily surprised, to hear that he recently battled with suicidal thoughts.
On June 7, 2014, Morgan, fellow comedian, James McNair, and other passengers in a chartered limousine was involved in a serious accident when they were struck by a Walmart tractor-trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike. Tragically, McNair lost his life.
When news struck, Morgan fans feared for the worst but were encouraged by the reports that h could potentially survive the wreck. It wasn’t until months later that we all learned the full extent of his injuries. He fought hard to overcome a broken leg, nose, ribs, and severe brain trauma. It took him more than a week to regain consciousness but, when he did, it was clear that there was a long road ahead of him.
For months after the accident, the Emmy-nominated was confined to a wheelchair. As other parts of his body healed, Morgan focused on learning to walk again and he recently told Entertainment Tonight that he relied on an unlikely helper – his 2-year-old daughter, Maven.
He explained: “Me and [Maven] started walking at the same time. When my daughter started walking, she took me and Moms [Morgan’s wife Megan Wollover] right there, first step. I was in the wheelchair and I said, ‘I’m walking, too,’ and a week later I was standing.”
By June 2015, a full year later, Morgan had graduated to walking with a cane. The following month, he was able to take some steps without any assistance. In September of last year, he gave a heartfelt speech after walking out onto the Emmy’s stage and, finally, in October, he hosted Saturday Night Live.
“I worked hard in my physical therapy,” Morgan said. “A lot of yelling. A lot of ouching. My therapist, Mary-Ann, she bust my a**. She said to me, ‘I don’t want to see you limping!’ She taught me how to stand and she got me back.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Morgan revealed that, after waking from a coma, he might not ever be able to return to comedy. That possibility was almost too much for him to bear. He explained: “I said, ‘If my funny ever went away, I’d die’ and I thought I was going to die for a long time. My thoughts – I was in a very dark place. I was sitting right here, contemplating suicide. I couldn’t walk.”
Fortunately, a few things happened to help him regain his determination to recover and return to the work he so clearly loves.
He believes that, while in a coma, he encountered his late father, Jimmy Morgan. The actor recounted what he heard his dad say: “He was the one who said, ‘Go home, son. I ain’t ready for you yet.’ I don’t think I cheated death. I think this was the plan. My room wasn’t ready.”
He also may have gotten a bit of a boost from his fellow comics, both living and passed on.
In addition to joking about the fact that his renewed humor may have been the result of something the late great comedian, Richard Pryor, said to him “in heaven,” he also recounted the moment when he laughed for the first time following the accident.
Fellow Saturday Night Live alum, Eddie Murphy, gave him a call and it seems to have been just what the recovering star needed. “Eddie said, ‘Are you all right?’” recounted Morgan. “And he said, ‘I love you and take a year off. Take as much time as you can off, because you don’t want to get on that stage with your knees wobbling.’ And I started laughing!”
Focus on the Future
Rather than dwelling on the past and all of the suffering he’s endured, Morgan seems to be trying to take a positive approach to the entire situation. Indeed, in this unlikely time, he has found a silver lining.
“It just lets me know it’s going to take more than eighteen wheels to take the gift that God gave me,” Morgan said. “He still got something for me to do, and that’s how I’m taking it. I mean people laughing for me, that means it’s going to take more than eighteen wheels.”
Here’s to many more years of laughter, Mr. Morgan!