“The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many”, “I have been – and always shall be – your friend”, “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels; his is the most… human.”
Since hearing of the death of Leonard Nimoy, my thoughts have been swirling with quotes from Star Trek. It was hard enough to deal with the fictional death of Mr. Spock in The Wrath of Khan (I still shed a tear when I watch the movie – or even a short part of it), but at least he was returned to us, and went on to Live Longer and Prosper.
For those that know me well, it is probably not a big surprise that I am a big fan of the sports and entertainment industry, and an even bigger fan of celebrities (and their characters), real and fictional. Sometimes the lines blur and are hard to distinguish. For example, I know Hugh Jackman has been in numerous roles, but that does not matter – Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine.
When celebrities pass away (again either real or fictional), I often find it upsetting. Even totally fictional deaths get to me (if you couldn’t tell, I have a hard time with death).
Over the past 5ish decades, there have been some celebrities whose deaths have upset me more than others – Lady Diana, Whitney Houston, and Robin Williams come to mind – all of them dying at too young of an age. And then there are a few that have shaken me to my core – there was Mickey Mantle and now Leonard Nimoy.
Mickey Mantle was a special case that is truly linked to childhood memories. Since before birth, I was a NY Yankee fan, so it goes without saying that I was a Mickey Mantle fan. He was my first introduction as a very young child to Larger than Life. The way he walked to the plate loosely swinging his bat like Thor’s hammer (another personal favorite but that is for another time). And his towering home runs – how could a little boy not grow up idolizing The Mick. Although at some level I knew I would not grow up to be the Center Fielder for the Yankees, as a kid there was always that fantasy that I could be the next Mickey Mantle. I clearly remember the day I got to meet him – it seems like yesterday. I was a young man and I was trembling while waiting in line to meet him and shake his hand. When he passed away, it was like a part of my childhood was gone forever – all that was left were the memories.
Leonard Nimoy is another one of those special cases. I remember being 6 years old and watching the first episode of Star Trek and being so angry at my older brother because I wanted to watch Bewitched but he hid the TV channel knob (this was before clickers) so I couldn’t change the channel. I didn’t know it then, but my siblings and I were slowly developing into Trekkies! I have been an avid fan of Star Trek for almost my entire life, and I am particularly partial to the original cast. It has been said that much of the early Star Trek was “campy” but the show somehow delivered a strong message that the universe, and humans place in it, will somehow turn out alright. And Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Mr. Spock over the years was nothing short of outstanding. Whether he realized it or not in the beginning, Leonard was portraying to all of the people in the world that are not part of the “in-crowd” that you can fit in and contribute and be successful even if you are a little different than the cool kids. He made it ok to be smart and he showed that it was ok to struggle with expressing yourself. He also showed us that it wasn’t uncommon to have conflicted feelings. While I, and nobody I know, is half human / half alien, I think most of us can relate to what Leonard was going through as Mr. Spock.
While Leonard Nimoy did live longer than the other celebrities mentioned, that does not make his passing any easier for me. It feels like another piece of childhood is now forever gone.
RIP Mr. Nimoy.