"I'm touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful - collecting these shards of spirituality - that we may be helping to bring about a healing."
-- Leonard Nimoy
It's not very often that a celebrity death rattles me. They are, after all, people I don't really know. For whatever reason, River Phoenix's sudden passing hit me hard back in 1993, and I was pretty sad this past November when author P.D. James died. It didn't matter that she was 94-years-old. She was my favorite writer, and had been active up until her death, often making the news. And, of course, there's Roger Ebert. I've written much about what he means to me already.
Now, dear reader, another celebrity death has occurred that has, frankly, left me gutted. Actor Leonard Nimoy -- most famous for portraying Mr. Spock on Star Trek -- has died today, aged 83. It is difficult to put down in words exactly what this man meant to me (or at least what his presence on TV, in movies and on social media meant). The death of Mr. Nimoy, such an icon in the science-fiction world, has left this sci-fi fan with a vague feeling of emptiness.
Leonard Nimoy was, in a twisted sort of way, more than just a face on a TV or movie screen. He was my late maternal grandmother, "Gummy." She was a huge Star Trek fan, and would tell me about watching it at her home in Champaign when it was originally on in the late '60s, and my mom -- then a student at the University of Illinois -- would come over and watch it with her. Gummy and I had several conversations about our favorite episodes of the original Star Trek series, and why the program mattered to us.
Nimoy, as an actor, conveyed with aplomb any character he inhabited. As Spock, he encouraged my logical side. I learned from him to sometimes slow down, stop and think through a situation before running head long into it. Of course, it was neat to see a different side to his talent, as he played the perfect villain on an episode of Columbo, or a Holocaust survivor taking a neo-nazi group to court in the TV Movie Never Forget. Then, of course, there was Nimoy the man. A while back, on his Twitter account, he said it was okay if folks wanted to make him their honorary grandfather.
I never knew my grandfathers. One died nearly 15 years before I was born, and the other... well... I was never able to meet him before he passed away in 1988. To be truthful, it's left an odd sort of void in my life, that feeling as though I've perhaps missed out on a key relationship that many others have been fortunate enough to have. So when Nimoy made his tweet, it was an offer I was willing to accept, as sad as that may sound.
And now, Leonard Nimoy is no more. Granted, he was 83-years-old. That's a good, long life. The shock of it all isn't just his impact on pop culture, but that he was so active and accessible up until his death. That presence is gone now, and his body will begin the natural change that all of us go through upon death. His atoms will dissipate into the ether, perhaps at some point helping form another living entity's existence.
For now, though, please excuse me while I wipe these tears away.