A Letter To River Phoenix On His 50th Birthday

You would have been 50 years old today.

I can only imagine what kind of man you would have grown to be or what a different world we would be living in right now if it was still graced by your presence. I truly believe the planet would be healthier if only you had stayed. Your children would be beautiful weirdos, positively influencing everything they touched. If you were here, perhaps more people would still have something to believe in. River, we all miss you so much.

Part of me is thankful you are no longer here, never having to witness the darkness that has consumed the world over the last two and a half decades since your departure. Due to global warming, and perhaps some other peculiar circumstances, tragic portions of the rain forests have burned down. I could feel your heart breaking in unison with the snap of every limb of every tree that fell to the ground, victim to the flames of humanity’s negligence and greed.

I’m also thankful you are not here to witness all of the pedophilia allegations happening all over the world. I know fragments of your childhood were also tainted by similar practices and beliefs within the Children of God cult that your family accidentally stumbled into. I’m glad you all made a successful escape from that nightmare. I can’t help but wonder what your stance would be on modern issues revolving around the very thing that once plagued your past. I’d like to believe that if you were still here, you would play an active role in the decomposition of such evil. You always had a way of standing up for the innocent, always raising awareness about animal cruelty and promoting the Vegan lifestyle. I’d like to believe that your passion and efforts would have eventually expanded to standing up for victimized children as well.

I just wanted you to know that, even 27 years later, people all over the world are still grieving what they lost that Halloween night in front of The Viper Room. However, we also know all is not lost. The way that a person dies does not define them, and we can feel fragments of your continued existence all around us. You are in every molecule of running water and every carnation blooming in pink. You are in every lyric that has ever been written for you, and every guitar string pulled by musicians on the street. You are in every protest for animal rights and every child who puts down a fork full of meat for the last time. You are in every set of blue-green eyes and every passing Halloween night.

The world may be absent of your heartbeat, but it isn’t absent of your memory, your influence, or your inspiration.

You are still touching the lives of people born long after you were gone. I was born a month and a half after you took your final leave. I never physically existed for a single moment in the world that you did, but I promise I have carried you with me every single day of my life, from the moment I was introduced to your memory.

So happy birthday, baby. Here’s to all 50 candles, because no matter where you are, you still burn so bright. I promise to never set you down. I will never let this world extinguish the memory of your life.

I’m trying.

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