Last week, Steve Erwin, the 44-year-old Australian naturalist, zoo keeper, and TV personality was killed by a stingray. Steve the real “Crocodile Dundee” was a regular on The Tonight Show where his boundless energy, thick Australian accent, and sense of humor endeared him to millions. I remember him bringing some baby kangaroos to the show and handing them to Jay who inspected them and asked, “Are those their pouches?” Steve looked at Jay with deadpan seriousness and said, “No, those are their testicles.”

He was a dedicated conservationist who got things done at the local level. He bought tracts of land to protect endangered Australian habitats. He changed our attitudes about some of the world’s most dangerous animals.

Steve Irwin was filming an underwater documentary called The Ocean’s Deadliest when he swam too close to a large stingray. The normally shy and evasive creature lashed out reflexively, sending its sharp, serrated tail-stinger directly into Steve’s heart. He was dead by the time they got him out of the water.

My first thought was, what are the astronomic odds of dying from a stingray dart? Then I reflected on the fact that a week previously, I was diving very close to the reef where Steve died. What is the lesson here? A bumper-sticker flashed to mind: “Life is Short, Then you Die,” but you never think that it’s going to end with such a lightening bolt. Then I thought, what a way to go. I mean how bad can that be, dying doing something and being somewhere you love. Maybe these are Steve’s lessons for us:

Be respectful of all things and beings and when swimming in new waters, don’t be so intrusive that you invite fear and retribution.

Life is always over before you know it. Death can come like a lightening bolt, so do what you love doing, and do it every day, as long as you can. If you’re lucky, be doing it when your number’s up.

Live your life in a way that makes a difference to somebody and something other than yourself, because after you’re gone that’s how you’ll be remembered.


Crikey! Steve, you beauty, peace be with you.