As Entertainment Weekly so generously reminded me, this week is the 20th anniversary of the passing of Jim Henson. It’s sad to think that he’s been gone for so long, but it’s a testament to his work that I was not quite seven years old at the time of his death and yet he had already made an inedible, lifelong impact on me. He’s been gone for 20 of my 26 1/2 years, and yet in those first 6 1/2 he shaped the person I am years later. I remember even then being aware of this death, and saddened by it, and worried that it meant the end of the Muppets. In fact, it might have been my first experience with death; at least I can’t recall anyone passing before then.
And I still remember being moved by his memorial, which, per his request, was a celebration and not a dirge And it still moves me to this day.
And to the credit of the Henson family and the Muppet family they soldiered on, and soon after the memorial they allayed my fears with a special television tribute to Jim, promising me and all the despondent, confused young fans that Muppets would live on. The fact that they confronted his death head on was somewhat difficult for a 6-year-old to comprehend, and somewhat overwhelming, but it was also somewhat appropriate, for Henson made entertainment for both children and adults alike, and I’ll always appreciate the honesty in which the Muppet team handled his death. It was immensely sad, but also immensely inspirational.
For many years now my email signature has been a Jim Henson quote, “When I was young, my ambition was to be one of those people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there.” I think I first came across it when I read a Jim Henson biography at about 10 years old and it resonated instantly, so when I was young that was my ambition too. And it still is.
Because of Jim Henson I hope to leave the world a better place. And if I can make a hundredth of the difference that Henson made then I’ll feel like I accomplished my goal.
Thanks, Jim. 20 years later you’re missed more than ever.
However, Henson wouldn’t want his Jumped The Snark in memoriam to end on such a treacle note. And the good news is that it doesn’t need to: the Muppets are on the verge of returning to the spotlight. We’ve missed a lot of Muppet news over the past month and a half, but things continue to look up for Kermit and the gang. And luckily another one of our favorite Jim’s, Jim Hill, has taken the liberty of rounding up the latest Muppet developments over on his blog. Things are looking up.
20 years later, and the Muppets are still going strong. Jim would be proud.