Death of the Croc Dude

Don’t ask me why, but when my husband came into our bedroom this morning and told me that Steve Irwin (a.k.a. The Crocodile Hunter) had been killed, it was like someone had punched me in the gut. Not like I knew the guy, but what I knew of him, I mostly liked. Like many women out there, I had a little crush on him. After all, scars and all, he was kinda cute. But that wasn’t it. I used to watch his show endlessly with son #3 when he was a baby, and he still loves Croc Hunter. But that wasn’t it. So what’s the deal? Good damned question.

It’s been bugging me all day, though. I can’t get it out of my head. It seems so surreal, as if something like this could not possibly happen– like it’s some twisted ill-adivesed PR stunt. But it’s not. Things like this happen every day, it’s just that it generally doesn’t make the front page. And it’s not like we didn’t expect it sooner or later. The guy played with crocodiles, for Pete’s sake. Hells bells, it was probably a matter of time before something got the better of him, and he’d be lucky if he didn’t take one of his kids or wife with him.

Yes, I thought he was reckless. And he was. But even if I didn’t always agree with what he did, I really believe he was one of the people on the planet who did things he thought were right just because he thought it was right. No agenda other than to help. I could be wrong, but I’ll hold to that belief.

It also brings into focus how tenuous everything is. If he’d known yesterday what we all know today. If we knew on September 10th, 2001 what we did 24 hours later. And for me, it brings into focus my own mortality. Perhaps that’s why Steve Irwin’s death is hitting me so hard personally. After all, if someone so larger than life and invincible can be taken out with a twist of fate in an almost impossible accident, what’s to say that a simple haus frau such as me couldn’t be erased just as quickly and neatly?

I’ve been lucky not to have to deal with an extreme amount of loss in my life, but right now I can’t help but think of Steve Irwin’s family. His wife who has lost a partner and the love of her life. His daughter who lost her beloved father. The son who will never know his father except from video clips. To them, I have no words that are adequate to ease their pain.

Several years ago, I wrote about a woman who lost her husband to cancer. Perhaps these words were inaccurate and as illconceived as feeding a croc with a one-month-old in tow. I don’t know. But while I’ve not experienced a lot of loss, when I have, these words have brought me some comfort.

“They tell you time heals all wounds, that it won’t hurt like hell in years to come. It’s an absolute lie. It hurts as much today as it did ten years ago. But time allows you not to think about it every second of every day, not to feel like your heart is being ripped from your chest with every breath. And soon, you realize that the pain is a good thing. Because it means you can feel something. And as long as I can feel that dull ache in my chest, I know he’s alive in my heart. That means I had something real. So I don’t want to stop hurting. Because with every pang, I realize that for a short time, I lived a miracle.”

Maddelaine Kane
AMERICAN BEAUTY
2004

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