It’s a curious thing about this human life we live. We know that it’s temporary, we know from a young age that eventually each of us is going to die, and yet when it happens to someone we care about, we are never quite prepared.
I’m sure you’re all already aware by now that Caroll Spinney passed away today. It is not such a strange thing that an 85-year-old man should die, especially when he was in ill health and had been for some time. But grief is not beholden to logic; it operates entirely separately from it.
I knew this day was coming eventually, of course. I didn’t know the exact date, but I knew that it would happen sooner or later. I thought about it sometimes, trying to imagine how it would feel when it actually happened, trying to prepare myself beforehand. Yet today I learned once again that it is just not possible.
The loss of Mr. Spinney is a strange feeling, kind of like losing a grandfather and a childhood friend at the same time. With his death approximately coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street, it feels like the end of an era.
I never got to meet Mr. Spinney in person. I came so close last month, though. He was supposed to be at GalaxyCon Minneapolis before he and his wife decided to give up the convention circuit. I wonder now if they knew or suspected that the end was this near and whether that influenced their decision.
I never met the Spinneys, but I feel like I know them anyway, because of Sesame Street, obviously, but also because of I Am Big Bird. I’m heartbroken for all of Mr. Spinney’s close friends and his family, but especially for Deb. At the same time, I derive some comfort in knowing that he’s waiting for her now at the raspberries.
The more I think about it, the more I realize what a debt of gratitude I owe Mr. Spinney. As Big Bird, he taught me what unconditional love meant. As Oscar, he taught me how to deal with difficult family members. If not for him, Steve might never have joined the Muppets, and Kermit probably would have died in 1990 with Jim Henson. If not for him, Steve might never have started making convention appearances, and I would never have met him.
Ultimately, I think the most important thing I learned from Mr. Spinney was self-respect. Big Bird, especially, always showed us respect as little kids, and that taught us to have respect for ourselves.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Spinney.
3 thoughts on “Never Prepared”
Last night, my friend said Big Bird died. I paused a moment, and realized this is how we saw Carol, for not often was he separate from his charge. This is a day of mourning for so many, first with the announcement of Carol’s passing, and then of Rene Auberjonois of Star Trek DS9 fame. I was prepared for Rene’s yes, but I’m saddened that the world has lost two great actors and personas this past weekend.
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As it would’ve been too difficult for me to write about this yesterday, I felt that it was important to finally let out some thoughts and feelings now. Before that though, I must ask, how are you coping? My intent isn’t to further your sadness by any means, because in doing so, I would add to my own sadness. As a fellow Sesame/Muppet/Henson fan, I extend warm comfort and my sincerest condolences. It’s just that, there’s been a somberness in the atmosphere (I’m in) since the previous afternoon (after finding out about this) – I was wondering if it feels that way to you, too. I mean, we all know why it’s there, understandably, but I’ll admit that I’m still (physically) without words, and there’s this continuous sense of disbelief at the fact that Caroll is now gone. As you said, however, this parting was inevitable – unpredictable, but written in fate, nonetheless. And yet…it feels like it happened too suddenly. That in mind, I was immediately reminded of his performance as Big Bird singing “Bein’ Green” at Jim’s memorial; gathering the strength to watch it again, I did – and I’ll say that it was by all means a very emotional tribute, one that will, from this point and onward, sound progressively haunting, especially since you can hear Caroll’s own voice break as he sings.
With that, like you, I was sadly never granted the opportunity to meet Caroll in person, but even so, I hope he has reunited with Jim and the others in the stars, realms away. Besides, I’d still like to thank this unparalleled and beloved puppeteer, for he has touched millions of hearts around the world with his gift and influence. Thank you, Caroll, for your incredible work over the years; thank you especially for the memories, laughs, and tears, for the life lessons, for dedicating almost 5 decades of your life to what became an institution, from the point you joined at its beginnings, up until you returned to celebrate its 50th anniversary, for helping incorporate Steve into the Muppet/Sesame family(ies), for teaching us all about love and kindness (along with so much more), for leaving behind an unforgettable legacy, for Big Bird and Oscar, and… for everything – you’ll be dearly missed. I know that despite him being gone, I owe him my gratitude, so I’ll make it my responsibility to ensure that succeeding generations hear “I Love Trash” and watch the scene with Big Bird and the Swedish Chef from “A Muppet Family Christmas”; I wish for his impact to span another 50+ years. Again, and you couldn’t have said it better Mary, this really hit home –
Indeed…thank you for everything, Mr. Spinney.
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Thank you Saba. You expressed what I could not put into words yesterday. I remember now, that someone said-when Jim died-that ‘God must have wanted Muppets in Heaven’.. More have left, since that fateful day, and I’d have to agree. I’d like to think that one day, He will Welcome us all back home, and we will be able to share all we have accomplished with others who have moved on.
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