Crikey! The Crock Hunter, Steve Irwin, is Dead

With pet phrases like “Crikey” and “Look at this Beauty”, Croc Hunter Steve Irwin invaded our living rooms, our hearts, and impacted both our knowledge of the creatures he loved so much and our culture. His two handed approach to grabbing hold of not only creatures on the run, but of life itself inspired us and inspired a fair share of comedy as well. One of my favorite Irwin spoofs played out in the movie “Dr. Doolittle 2” starring Eddie Murphy. In the scene, the crocodile, with an “Irwinesque” voice says, with an Australian accent, “Okay, now watch this. I’m going to act as if I’m not paying attention, and when he comes near, I’m ‘gonna bite his arm off”.

On September 4th, while swimming off the north coast of Australia, sadly Steve Irwin was stung in the chest by the barb of a stingray and died as the result of his injury. Of all the things to get the 44-year-old animal expert, it had to be something he likely never saw coming. For years he played with snakes and Crocks, only to be outdone by a creature of the sea while in the throes of trying to bring us yet another thrilling documentary, this time on creatures of the sea. While granted, death by accident at the tender age of 44 from a man so full of life is tragic, I think what makes us mourn him is something intangible.

We mourn the deaths of people taken from us young like Steve Irwin or like John Ritter differently than we mourn the deaths of people like Christopher Reeves or River Phoenix or Kurt Cobain, or Chris Farley, John Belushi, John Candy, or James Dean. We mourn them differently than we mourn Gilda Radner or Andy Kaufman. In some cases, we mourn them because of their indomitable spirits, or because of the tragedy of a life wasted because of over indulgence. Sometimes we mourn them because they seem to have missed how much we loved them, and sometimes we mourn them just because they made us laugh. Sometimes we mourn them because it seems God took them from us out of a sense of selfish desire and a lack of medical advancement. It seems though that the manner of death matters in the degree of our mourning, but that the manner of life matters even more.

Due to their lifestyles, we expected the deaths of John Candy and of Chris Farley but hoped they would happen later. We are rarely shocked when celebrities like River Phoenix die from drug overdoses. We expect death but hope for the worst when a beloved celebrity takes ill. We applaud their indomitable spirits. Had Steve Irwin died as the result of carelessness in the crock pen, or as the result of pissing off a snake on set, we might have mourned him, but not to the same degree as when his life was cut short by something surprising and unexpected. While certainly not to the same degree, we mourn Steve Irwin for much the same reason we mourn John Ritter, and it wasn’t just because their lives ended quickly and unexpectedly in weird ways. It’s not just because of how they died, but also because of how they livedâÂ?¦.full of life, full of joy, full of hope.

We saw, in Steve Irwin a sort of childlike zeal for life, an excitement that rekindled the curiosity of our youth. While we all watched amazed with the haphazard manner in which he handled some of the world’s most dangerous creatures, we also watched with fascination at how much he respected and loved the world in which he was born. While none of us is likely to wrestle a crocodile or grab a venomous snake by the tail, we applaud the man who did, and we were inspired by his prolonged sense of youth and love for life. A love for life is a contagious thing and while thousands of people are taken from us too soon every day, we miss the ones we know and love. Steve Irwin made us love him because he loved life.

God Speed Steve Irwin! May your next adventure inspire the same sort of joy as the one you just left. You will be missed.

Read Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin Killed by Stingray and Crocodile Hunter: The Not So Ordinary Bloke to learn more about Steve Irwin.

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