Crikey. My kids grew up watching the Croc Hunter and his wildlife antics. Steve Irwin was someone, much like Princess Diana, I figured would outlive me. So it was with shock and awe that I turned on my computer the other day to be greeted with a news headline proclaiming his untimely death.
My jaw dropped. Before I read the article, I thought, what dumb thing did he do now? Guess his zany enthusiasm finally caught up with him. Later, I regretted those first thoughts when, in losing him, I realized what we had lost.
In a jaded world where we need more and more reality TV thrills to get our juices going, Steve Irwin, goofy as he seemed, was the real deal. He made kids aware there are other creatures on this planet who deserve to be appreciated and protected, even though they may not be cuddly and cute and traditional. Will I ever kiss an alligator? No, but I am more aware now of their endangered habitats and how they hold a place in the grand scheme of living things, and how it's my duty as a citizen of the world to see that "misunderstood" creatures such as they are kept from harm.
I remember seeing a portion of a tape shot when Irwin's baby daughter was born. He cried and held her in his arms as though she were the most precious gift he'd ever received. And she was; of course she was. His emotions were always right on the surface and his zest for life never failed to bring a smile to people's faces, even while they were shaking their heads at the grown up little boy in brown shorts who widened his eyes when talking about the people, the animals, the ideals he loved.
All day long, on the day of Steve Irwin's death, my almost 16 year-old kept remarking on how she couldn't believe he was dead, gone in an ironic twist of fate with a literal stab right to the heart. Actually, I could hardly believe it myself. He seemed far too alive to ever die, that day, or any other day.
I'm sorry he's gone. I think he provided a message to the world that often wasn't appreciated enough, and that is - we are the guardians of the earth and its creatures. We have it in our power to preserve and protect, or to ignore and destroy through either intention or neglect.
Do I love alligators, snakes, spiders, and god knows what else out there that is not warm, cuddly, and fuzzy? No, and I never will. Not in that way. But I do feel that as coinhabitants of this earth, they should not come to harm because they are either misunderstood, or in the way of progress.
Bye, Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter. Thank you for your legacy. I hope we do right by it, mate.