You had had a near-death experience 20 years ago. What happened and how did it change your life?
I had anaphylactic shock. I was given an injection of an antibiotic, and accidentally the man gave it in a vein or an artery rather than in a muscle. I went into shock, which means everything closed down in my body. I left my body. I could see people administering to my body. I was not in it anymore, and I was looking up. A corner of the room, as it were, was my vantage point, and when I looked up I saw a white light. I remembered saying, I'm not ready to die yet. There was so much I want to do with my life and that I would not waste a moment in doing whatever I could do to contribute somehow to the world and to raise my children. There was so much that I wanted to do. And so, I was blessed and given the opportunity to live. Of course, cortisone and adrenaline were very helpful.
It gave me this amazing sense of freedom because, first of all, I know it doesn't hurt when you die.You don't have a panic attack about it, you have a panic attack before, and everyone around you has a panic attack, but, no, you just go to a very serene place.
And really, who we are is not our bodies. It's something outside of our bodies, something that you can't touch or feel. That's who you are, not your body. [Afterwards] I looked at my body and went, okay, you're a car and you need to be taken care of. So I exercise and I try to maintain it to the best of my ability on the understanding that, ultimately, the warranty will run out. And there's also bad luck in life.
I live life to the fullest every day. I try to make a difference wherever I can. I realize you take nothing with you other than the difference you maybe made in the world and/or the love that you shared with people you interact with.
I think a lot of people are so worried about the future that they close their hearts off, and they're so angry about the past or sad about the past, about it not being their present, that they miss out on what life is. Life is right now, it's in the moment.
Do you have any spiritual practices that you participate in with your family?
We go to church from time to time. My children go to a Christian school. I have a Jewish assistant, and when she has special holidays or something, we practice those in the house with her, or we support her in that.
We raise our children to understand and appreciate all different faiths. If we have the opportunity to go to another faith and see what they do, we encourage it. That was how I was raised, anyway. My parents raised us to learn about all religions and then choose for ourselves. So I'm raising my children in exactly the same way because I found a lot of my friends—a lot of people I know who were raised strictly in one doctrine—find themselves becoming lapsed, they went against it. I want my children to want it and seek it and live it because it's their choice, because they found it.
Do you have any family traditions?
We dine together every day, and we speak about things—about what's going on in our lives. We do a lot of things as a family. We encourage them in sports. We encourage them in music. We take them to the theater. We talk about what's going on in current events and what's going on in their friends' lives and what's going on in their lives. I think a lot of the things that are spoken about in churches, we just do around the dining room table.
I think that's actually one of the things that I always loved about "Dr. Quinn"—at the end of the day whatever was happening, they all sat around that table and they fleshed it out. There's something to be said for the breaking of bread and the pausing and stopping everything you're doing and really hearing and being, and having a chance to talk about what your experiences of the day have been, and what's going on in the world.
One of your recent roles was in the hit comedy, "Wedding Crashers." As we're at the tail end of wedding season, what's your advice for couples who are preparing to get married?
Make sure that it's celebrating your union rather than becoming such an expensive party that you don't have any money to live on. If you're going to give something to bridesmaids, give them something that they'll always want to keep, like a piece of jewelry or something, rather than weighing them down with a very expensive dress that they really hate. There's something to be said for telling them a color code and just saying, "Pick your own [dress]. This is the color area that I love." I did that with my [wedding].
I think a lot of people get so obsessed with the wedding and the expense of the wedding that they miss out on what the real purpose is. It's not about a production number, it's about a meaningful moment between two people that's witnessed by people that they actually really know and care about.