Thirty-one years ago today, Little House on the Prairie star Michael Landon died at the age of 54 after a difficult battle with pancreatic cancer. And though it’s now been decades since the tragic, all too soon passing of the iconic actor, his friends and family still mourn the loss.
In honor of the 31st anniversary, his Little House co-star and on-screen daughter, Gilbert, penned a heartbreaking essay for PanCAN, a charity that funds the research of pancreatic cancer and supports its victims. In it, she had three major points: to celebrate the life and legacy of Michael Landon, to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer, and to illustrate the seemingly never-ending struggle with grief.
“Today is the 31st anniversary of the death of one of the most influential people in my life and I am so, so sad,” Gilbert began. “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,” she continued. “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,” Gilbert wrote. “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.”
‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert Pays Tribute to Michael Landon
For Melissa Gilbert, Michael Landon wasn’t just an actor, he was a role model and a friend. Landon was passionate about being a positive influence in both his personal life and career. As such, Gilbert remembers her Little House on the Prairie co-star with extreme fondness.
“Mike was a principled, honorable man who believed, first and foremost in the power of love, tolerance, compassion and understanding,” Gilbert wrote. “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,” she continued. “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.”
The Little House on the Prairie star concludes her touching tribute with a call to action. By boosting contributions to the charity PanCAN, Melissa Gilbert hopes that we “can help end this disease and its horrid, indiscriminate destruction today.”