Exactly 85 years ago, on 24 September 1936, Jim Henson was born—a creative genius whose wide-reaching and positive influence on the population is rivalled by few in the world of entertainment, due to an incredible career that began in the 1950s when he created the now-adored Muppets. Henson passed away far too early, in 1990, aged just 53. Some time before, he wrote the following two letters, to be opened in the event of his death: the first was to his five children; the second to his “Friends & Family.”
To His Children
First of all, don’t feel bad that I’m gone. While I will miss spending time with each of you, I’m sure it will be an interesting time for me and I look forward to seeing all of you when you come over. To each of you I send my love. If on this side of life I’m able to watch over and help you out, know that I will. If I can’t, I’m sure I can at least be waiting for you when you come over. This all may sound silly to you guys, but what the hell, I’m gone—and who can argue with me?
Life is meant to be fun, and joyous, and fulfilling. May each of yours be that—having each of you as a child of mine has certainly been one of the good things in my life. Know that I’ve always loved each of you with an eternal, bottomless love. A love that has nothing to do with each other, for I feel my love for each of you is total and all-encompassing. Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life, enjoy it.
To Friends & Family
I’m not at all afraid of the thought of death and in many ways look forward to it with much curiosity and interest. I’m looking forward to meeting up with some of my friends who have gone on ahead of me and I will be waiting there to say hi to those of you who are still back there. I suggest you first have a nice, friendly little service of some kind. It would be lovely if some of the people who sing would do a song or two, some of which should be quite happy and joyful. It would be nice if some of my close friends would say a few nice, happy words about how much we enjoyed doing this stuff together. Incidentally, I’d love to have a Dixieland band play at this function and end with a rousing version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Have a wonderful time in life, everybody; it feels strange writing this kind of thing while I’m still alive, but it wouldn’t be easy to do after I go.
Before you leave, please allow me to lower the tone, courtesy of an excerpt from Brian Jay Jones’ 2013 book, Jim Henson: The Biography…
One viewer—a Mr. Dionne from California—fired off an angry, rambling letter, complaining haughtily that ‘the most disciplined attention I could give [The Cube] was a belch from the grave of Marcus Aurelius, occasioned, I might add, by the dead weight of its own dust caving in on itself.’
Two weeks later, on 13 March 1969, came Jim’s one-sentence response:
Dear Mr. Dionne:
What the fuck are you talking about?