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Clip from 6 September 2006

Originally published in Florida Today

Steve Irwin had a passion for wildlife and life itself


I probably should have realized that Steve Irwin wouldn't die in a normal way. Still, part of me saw the Crocodile Hunter living into his 90s, teaching his kids the family business of wrestling reptiles and soothing snakes, the way he learned it from his father.

It's what I hoped for him, a long life full of adventure, not a quick, unlikely and fatal stab to the heart by a stingray. Maybe it's what we all hoped, because Irwin would have taken advantage of any extra minute that he had. He was a man who lived every moment, in his words, "flat out."

People who reach that level of passion about anything, no matter how small or geeky or crazy that thing is, shine with a dazzling light. They can't help it. They are in love with that thing, and in pursuing it, in pursuing their bliss, they are in love with life.

Irwin was like that. In his comical, breathless style, he shouted his passion for the endangered animal souls he found in his wanderings. He shared more than a message about conservation; he shared his boundless love for the natural world, which seemed neither small nor geeky nor crazy.

Irwin conveyed that passion with an omnipresent camera crew in tow as he and his wife, Terri, went on expeditions, had babies and hauled crocodiles around their own backyard, the Australia Zoo. Somehow, despite the inherent falseness of television, which suckled greedily upon Irwin's enthusiasm and taste for "danger, danger, danger," he came across as sincere.

He had a reported audience of 200 million people. While some surely watched to see what nutty thing he'd do next, there was no denying that he meant it, whatever it was. Irwin lived a life worth striving for -- not a life in front of the cameras, or a life going face to face with venomous snakes, but a life without limits.

He died that way, too. He didn't die on his couch, watching television, hardening up his arteries with microwave popcorn. He truly was alive right until the moment he died. For those of us who caught a glimpse of his joyous energy, he will be alive for a long time.