Editor’s note: Actress Melissa Gilbert wrote today’s blog in tribute to her friend, mentor and “Little House on the Prairie” costar Michael Landon, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1991.
July 1, 2022. Today is the 31st anniversary of the death of one of the most influential people in my life and I am so, so sad.
You would think that I would have been feeling this kind of sadness last year, on the 30th anniversary. After all, 30 seems like more of a landmark number than 31. Yet here I am, feeling the grief and loss deeply today. Grief and loss don’t care about landmark numbers. In my experience they creep up and hit you when you least expect it.
Like today. Today I am missing my mentor, my acting partner, my favorite director, father figure, friend and boss. Today I am missing my Pa. Today I am missing Michael Landon. So much so, I can feel it in my chest, in my heart. I am aching for him.
I am grieving his loss, his death. As, I’m sure many, many others are. Especially now, because it seems like the world is on fire. I know Mike’s voice and talent would have brought us all comfort during these difficult times. The lessons he would have shared with us through his films would have shed light on injustice as it did for so many decades before his passing.
Mike was a principled, honorable man who believed, first and foremost in the power of love, tolerance, compassion and understanding. He was a fierce warrior for human rights, and he was just that magical bit better at telling those stories than anyone else.
He was my mentor and one of the greatest influences on my life. Mike was also a husband, brother, father, grandfather and friend when he died those 31 years ago. His death left an enormous hole in the lives of those of us who knew him personally as well those who simply admired his work.
His death, as cruel and brutal as it was, would not have happened had it not been for the vicious, pernicious, horrendous disease of pancreatic cancer. This scourge that is pancreatic cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care who you are, where you live, what you do for a living, how old you are, what religion, nationality, color or gender you are. It is a brutal and vicious killer and it robbed me of a beloved one.
I was raised not to hate. I was raised to love and accept all, but I am telling you I hate pancreatic cancer with a passion that is volcanic. I want to wipe this disease out completely. I want it obliterated, globally.
Obviously, this is not a fight I can take on myself and that is why I am so grateful for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). I can take my anger and use it to support this extraordinary organization. PanCAN is truly a one-of-a-kind resource for people whose lives are touched by pancreatic cancer. PanCAN’s mission is all about, and I quote, “advancing scientific research, building community, sharing knowledge, and advocating for patients.” They do it all. Their mission is the most comprehensive out there and that is why they have my full support.
Pancreatic cancer has taken the lives of so many, parents, grandparents, children, siblings, spouses, co-workers, friends, and partners of so many people! It took away one of the most important people in my life. A man I will grieve for every day. I just miss him so much…and I am not even a member of his family.
If I am feeling this bad, I can only imagine how sad his children are on a day like today. They suffered an unimaginable loss. As have so many others all over the world.
So, I am asking you today, on this anniversary of the death of my Pa, Michael Landon, to please make a contribution to PanCAN. Do it in Mike’s name. You can help end this disease and its horrid, indiscriminate destruction today.
Please, please help in whatever way you can.
Thank you and bless you.
With love (and with the nickname he gave me all those years ago),
Halfpint (Melissa Gilbert)