My first experience of death came in the least likely of places: on a children’s television show. Back in the early 80’s one of Sesame Street’s cast members, Mr. Hooper, passed away. It was quite a while before the writers and producers agreed on how to tackle such a heavy topic on a kid’s show. For a while they thought that he would simply be re-cast or “forgotten” and just move on with the show. Finally they decided that Mr. Hooper’s death (played by Will Lee) should be given the respect it deserved and was given proper send off with a beautifully told segment were Big Bird learns the truth from his friends.
I was probably three or four when this episode aired and understood what the show was trying to show us. Except I knew TV was fake and thought the death was just a story. In my mind I knew things were alright and Mr. Hooper would be back for another Sesame Street story the very next day; except Mr. Hooper was still gone. I asked my mom where he went and she said that he died in real life.
Then, just like Big Bird, it clicked in my head and I understood from that point on that death is very real.