Time doesn’t heal every wound.
Melissa Gilbert in an essay Friday for Pancreatic Cancer Action Network paid tribute to her “Little House on the Prairie” co-star Michael Landon on the anniversary of his 1991 death from pancreatic cancer.
“Today is the 31st anniversary of the death of one of the most influential people in my life and I am so, so sad,” began Gilbert, 58, who starred on the show as Laura Ingalls Wilder, daughter of Landon’s Charles Ingalls, on the NBC series set in 19th-century America. The show aired from 1974 to 1983.
“You would think that I would have been feeling this kind of sadness last year, on the 30th anniversary,” said Gilbert. “Grief and loss don’t care about landmark numbers. In my experience they creep up and hit you when you least expect it.”
On this year’s anniversary, said Gilbert, she’s “missing my mentor, my acting partner, my favorite director, father figure, friend and boss.
“Today I am missing Michael Landon,” she continued. “So much so, I can feel it in my chest, in my heart. I am aching for him.”
She noted that others are likely experiencing the same in remembrance of Landon, “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.”
That, Gilbert said, would have been accomplished through the would-be work of Landon, who she noted “believed, first and foremost in the power of love, tolerance, compassion and understanding” and was “a fierce warrior for human rights.”
“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,” said Gilbert. “Pancreatic cancer has taken the lives of so many. … It took away one of the most important people in my life. A man I will grieve for every day.”
Gilbert implored those reading the essay to donate to PanCAN in honor of Landon to “help end this disease and its horrid, indiscriminate destruction today.”
Queens-born Landon, whose role on the show landed him a Golden Globes nomination in 1979, was just 54 when he died on July 1, 1991.