In a world of wannabe reality stars and badly-behaved starlets, Stephen Colbert seems like a class act. Do you remember when The Colbert Report went on a sudden and mostly-unexplained hiatus February, and fans were worried that something terrible had happened? He came back and did a very sweet on-air tribute to his 91-year-old mother, who had apparently been ill, and the Colbert Nation loved him even more. Now he's opened up about the enormous tragedy that happened to his family years ago -- when his father and two older brothers died in a plane crash.
It's hard to imagine how Colbert dealt with such a major loss at a young age ... but as he explains, he initially believed that their deaths defined him.
During an interview with Oprah, Colbert said that the tragedy consumed him at first:
For years, I sort of thought that that was my secret name. That the loss was my name, if you know what I mean ... [the experience] is who you are.
In 1974, Eastern Airlines Flight 212 went down in a North Carolina cornfield. Colbert's father, James Colbert, and two of his older brothers, Paul, 18, and Peter, 15, were on the doomed flight, and lost their lives along with 69 other people.
Colbert was just 10 when this happened, and he says it took him eight years before he began to process his grief:
I didn't really feel the loss until I was in college. Then, I was in bad shape ... I was just so sad about it. (...) It seemed like a long time at the time, but now, at age 48, it seems like the blink of an eye.
Thirty years later, Colbert says he keeps a card on his desk at work that reads, "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God." He says that these days, his wife and children are the source of his joy:
Joy can be hard ... it's not the same thing as happiness. I think happiness is overrated.
Here's the video from the interview:
There's something about having an honest glimpse into a celebrity's life and their family relationships that makes them relatable, don't you think? I've always liked Stephen Colbert, and this revelation not only gives me a great amount of respect for what he's had to endure and overcome, but provides a little insight into how he's able to create such an outspoken public persona -- while keeping his personal life so private.
Did you have any idea about Stephen Colbert's family loss?
Image via Colbert Nation