Barbara Eden looked back at her only son Matthew Ansara’s tragic death 20 years ago and said his painful passing had her “always on the edge of tears.”
The “I Dream of Jeannie” star’s son died in 2001 at the age of 35 due to an accidental drug overdose.
“When Matthew was clean and sober, he was such a beautiful human being, inside and out,” Eden told People. “Drugs are inexplicable. It’s so frustrating.”
Eden and her first husband, Michael Ansara, tried for seven years to have a child. The pair were married from 1958 until 1974.
“The same day that ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ sold, the doctor told me I was pregnant,” the Arizona native said. She starred in the iconic NBC sitcom from 1965 to 1970.
She continued, “I was thrilled. I was so happy, but I knew they’d have to replace me. Well, God love [show creator] Sidney Sheldon. He got to work and we did the first 13 shows with me pregnant with Matthew.”
“I don’t know if becoming a mom changed me, but it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me,” Eden added. “It’s a miracle, having a baby, and having this little creation. I get goosebumps when I think about it. It’s the loveliest thing that happened in my life.”
Matthew was in and out of rehab for 14 years before his untimely passing. Eden revealed that at first, she “didn’t recognize the behavior — the sleeping and the bouts of anger that would come up all of a sudden with this charming, darling boy.”
“I was scared to death,” she admitted. “I didn’t know what to do. He was too young to know he needed rehab or help. It’s a wonder that he lived to be 35.”
“I don’t think there’s anything worse than to lose your child,” she confessed. “As a parent, I had a lot of guilt and anger, and following his death I was always on the edge of tears. Even though he was 35, he was still my baby.”
“I began to speak with parents who were going through the same thing,” Eden said. “I think parents should know that it’s not a bad thing to be strict with your child. If you know what’s going on, you have a chance to help. Ultimately it’s up to them, but there’s hope.”