The loss of the legends
We lost four Australian legends in the past 10 days or so:
- first, the political legend – Don Chipp, founder of the Democrat party, ‘to keep the bastards honest’
- the literary legend, Colin Thiele, author of Storm Boy,
- most recently, the racing legend, Peter Brock,
- and most famously, the Crocodile Hunter legend, Steve Irwin.
It is Steve Irwin’s death that has affected everybody, because he was so well-known to both kids and adults the world over.
I started thinking about why the death of a person who I had never met, had affected me and others so much:
1. It is a reminder of our own mortality. Eventually we will all shuffle off the mortal coil, but it was never expected that Steve would shuffle off so soon. Not that he was ever expected to shuffle – he escaped so many deadly situations, and he moved so fast on land, he seemed invincible. But back to our own mortality. Many of us don’t grapple with the concept of our own mortality too often. I’ve thought about it many times – first when I woke in intensive care after a major car accident at the age of 20, and again, about 9 years ago, when my mother passed away. We’re not invincible and we need to make the most of every day which includes being kind to the people we love.
2. The Children. Steve Irwin left behind young children and this breaks my heart. Bindi lived for her father and to have a man of his energy and enthusiasm so suddenly ripped from her life, will leave a gaping hole behind. And as she grows older she will blame him, she will blame herself until she finally comes to term with it. And little Bob – what will he remember of his father? There’ll probably be no real memories for him as he is so young, just a kaliedoscope of pieces of memory mixed with video footage, photos and anecdotes from those old enough to remember Steve. And in the end he won’t be able to distinguish his own memories of his father from the video tape or anecdotes.
3. It drags our own grieving back to the surface. In the end, we are not grieving for a famous person that we never knew — we are grieving for our own losses. We are grieving for the father we never had, we are grieving for the partner we lost or the partner we will lose in years to come. Steve Irwin’s death becomes personal because our sub-conscious makes it personal. After all, we are human and none of us are immune to grief.
So, they are my reasons as to why I was so affected this week by Steve Irwin’s death. I’m sure that these reasons are shared by many.
But apparently not Germaine Greer. Like a vulture picking over a corpse, she chose this moment to attack Steve Irwin, trying to grab some headlines for herself, unable to face the fact that she is becoming increasingly irrelevant as time goes on. What a sad old cow. John Birmingham wrote an article for The Australian in response to her words. It’s worth a read.
The other annoying thing is all the people on ebay trying to cash in on Steve Irwin’s death. Flogging the Aussie papers which cost $1 or $2 for $50. Flogging their autographed photos, shirts, merchandise etc for a cheap buck. One of my prized possessions is an autographed copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I met Douglas Adams at a literary luncheon in Sydney when he was promoting Long Time No See – his book about endangered species. He was very funny in person, and I will treasure that book always. Occasionally, I’ve cleared out my book shelves and offloaded them on Ebay, but that book will never be sold. His death was a loss to the humourous sci-fi world, and to the universe.