I personally have a friend who is devastated by Nimoy’s death. She is a devoted Trekkie, and a life-long fan. She’s older than me, and eagerly kept up with original series as it came out, and was carefully critical of all the new adaptations. We met and bonded over her Star Trek purse and Optimus Prime bumper sticker. Nothing like mutual-geekiness will bring two people together.
Nimoy died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cause by his decades of smoking. He was 83. His parents were Jewish immigrants from what is know the Ukraine. His Jewish heritage served him well–the v-shaped Vulcan salute, and the words “live long and prosper” that accompanied it were added to the character of Spock by Nimoy himself, and are part of a traditional Jewish blessing. Despite being known best as the Star Trek character, Nimoy also did theatre acting, and has a filmography that encompasses a great deal more than the character of Spock. He also directed, did photography, and wrote–two biographies and several volumes of poetry. He even served in the US Army Reserve for 18 months. His first autobiography was entitled I Am Not Spock and he wasn’t! He could read and speak Yiddish, was married twice, and had two children. Many actors resent being strongly identified with a famous character they have played, but Nimoy accepted, and even embraced it, signing all his tweets with the acronym LLAP, which stands for the traditional Vulcan goodbye “live long and prosper”, and frequently greeting fans with the Vulcan salute.
I won’t remember Leonard Nimoy as Spock. The first time I saw him grace the screen of my television was when a local network played an old, old episode of Columbo–the only episode Nimoy appeared in. I won’t even necessarily remember him as an actor, writer, director, or photographer. Instead, every time I hear his name, I think of my friend. He lived a full life, and had an exemplary career, and it seems almost rude or unfeeling to acknowledge that in a few years or a decade I will hardly remember that at all. But I attribute the nerd culture he, in part, represented, for giving me more than one good friend. I sort of doubt he would be offended by how quickly I throw off his personal memory in favor of the memories of very real friendships and the good times we had together. The last thing Nimoy posted on the internet was a quote from one of his poems; “Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.” One of my perfect moments that is preserved in my memory with the clarity of a photograph was the thrill of a new friendship that began because of a shared interest in something Nimoy participated in.
If I get the chance to choose my legacy, I might prefer this.
This is, obviously, late. I wrote it and forgot it, came back and cried over it, then finally edited it to publish it. And my feelings have not changed. The actors that I love I rarely love for them, but for their influence–the movies that I watched with my family, the movies that brought fanfiction and Halloween costumes in my home, the television shows that taught me and those around me valuable life lessons. If you dance, sing, write, or are a part of the arts in any capacity, I think this is what you work for, the way something seemingly fleeting sticks in the memory and works as a vehicle for love.
My friend and I may have to schedule a Star Trek marathon. We would have our own little memorial then. Her’s would be to a favourite actor. Mine would be to a man I never met who inadvertently gave me a friend.
Rest in peace, Leonard Nimoy.