When Life Imitates Art, It Can Be Heartbreaking

It is said that death comes in threes, and, sadly, for me once again that was true.   But I could have never have predicted this particular trifecta.

Yesterday started for me in the wee hours catching up on one of the few broadcast network sitcoms I still try and watch with some regularity, YOUNG SHELDON.  Its predecessor, THE BIG BANG THEORY, was a genuinely anticipated weekly event in my house, and arguably will go down at the last truly mass appeal comedy in history.  It regularly achieved eight-figure audiences deep into its 12-season run, two figures we likely will never see again for anything in scripted entertainment.  And successful enough that it was able to be succeeded by effectively an origin spinoff, sans studio audience and laughtrack, but with enough originality and talent to achieve a seven-season run of its own that is reaching its conclusion this month.  Which, for fans of the Cooper-verse, meant a death was definitely forthcoming,  WINGG’s Fariha Bhatti explained in a post that dropped yesterday morning:

In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon made clear that his father died when he was 14, which is his age in Season 7 of Young Sheldon. For this reason, fans were on edge, dreading the moment when it would finally happen. In the May 6 episode, it was finally revealed how does George die in Young Sheldon. 

The specific circumstances surrounding his death are not explicitly depicted in the show. This happens a few days after he finally gets his dream job as a football coach at Houston’s Rice University. Everything was going well for the Coopers until one morning when George left for work. Before leaving, he says he’ll be back for a family photo shoot, bidding farewell with a casual “See you all later.” 

However, he doesn’t return home. Instead, his friend informs his family of his unexpected death from a heart attack. 

And although it was an event both scripted and anticipated, it was still newsworthy and emotional for many of the case members.  For example, DEADLINE’s Bruce Haring reported how the actor who portrayed Young Sheldon took the news:

Iain Armitage has issued an Instagram post praising a specific character departing the show in the last two episodes.

Armitage, who plays the young Sheldon Cooper in the series, wrote a heartfelt tribute prior to the coming big reveal, which fans of the series and its predecessor, The Big Bang Theory, have long known was coming.  In the post, Armitage saluted his onscreen dad, George Sr., played by Lance Barber. “Love you, George! Love you, Lance!!!” he wrote in his caption.

The actor handled the news far better than did his character, normally an overintelligent and condescending type that lacked even the modest maturity level of his older self.  When both the principal and his fellow football coach showed up ashen-faced, the closing moments panned in on an utterly shocked and devastated Sheldon, a person who was loath to handle any change whatsoever no matter how trivial, who now was merely a teenage boy destined to go through the rest of hi life without a father.

Sure, I cried.  But not as hard as when I arrived at my part-time job.  These days, I work Fridays and Saturdays at a store where I regularly have to enter potential orders on a company I Pad which they insist is carried with a shoulder strap.  A few weeks back, while trying to land a “sale”, somehow the I Pad had slipped off my shoulder.  I looked everywhere in the massive store.  No luck.  The store manager, who didn’t know me previously, calmed me down and assured me he would not rest until it was found.  Two weeks later when I showed up to work I was paged.  The store manager indeed came through.

This was the scene I was greeted with when I changed into my work clothes upon arriving yesterday.

The family’s GoFundMe provided the details I was too devastated to probe into:

My name is Vanessa Flores, and I am creating this fundraiser on my family’s behalf. It is with heavy hearts that we share the unexpected passing of our eldest son, Juan Carlos Flores.
Juan Carlos was known and loved by many, as we have already seen in the few days since his passing on Saturday May 4th 2024. As we prepare to lay him to rest we welcome any gesture of support, as well as offer ourselves in service to his name.
He is survived by his mother & father, his siblings, his daughters Brianna & Cassandra & countless friends.
The food they provided was a bit too heavily spiced for my liking, but I honestly wasn’t very hungry to begin with.  And I didn’t regain my appetite when, on the way home, I learned of the third death by a heart attack within 24 hours, and yet another person who I had an all too brief personal history with, but clearly made his mark on many, many others.  THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Zoe G Phillips was tasked with sharing it to her readers:

Hollywood A-listers took to social media this weekend to honor Sam Rubin, the beloved KTLA anchor who died on Friday.

“Your professionalism was unmatched by your kindness and humanity,” Viola Davis wrote on Instagram. “I will miss your presence on The Red Carpet. God bless your loved ones. Godspeed.” 

Rubin was a popular entertainment anchor on KTLA-TV’s morning show, and appeared across Hollywood at award shows and red carpet events. He died of a heart attack on Friday at age 64.

“KTLA 5 is profoundly saddened to report the death of Sam Rubin,” the channel wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Sam was a giant in the local news industry and the entertainment world and a fixture of Los Angeles morning television for decades. His laugh, charm and caring personality touched all who knew him. Sam was a loving husband and father: the roles he cherished the most. Our thoughts are with Sam’s family during this difficult time.”

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos honored Rubin on Instagram, writing, “Awards season Red Carpets will never be the same without KTLA’s Sam Rubin. Always having the most fun and always a smile and a laugh. He was a legend in this town.”

On Twitter, Ryan Reynolds wrote: “Even if I was on my 85th interview that day, I was always happy to see Sam. Even if HE was on his 85th interview that day, he always brought genuine kindness, curiosity and an outside the box question.

My own interactions with Sam were years in the distance.  Remember how I reminded folks of my all-to-brief dalliance as a producer for a proposed daily series based on VARIETY! which inexplicably cast an aloof Pat Sajak as the antidote to ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT’s Mary Hart?   Well, that show definitely needed an actual entertainment reporter to fill in the obvious gap.  Sam Rubin was our first and only choice.  And far and away the most approachable and cooperative member of our cast.

Comedian Greg Grunberg summed it up quite succinctly in his own heartfelt social media post which DEADLINE’s Tom Tapp embellished with the report of his live call-in to the devastated KTLA afternoon news which treated Rubin’s death with the kind of depth and sensitivity traditionally reserved for the passing of world leaders:

Grunberg phoned in to pay tribute, dubbing Rubin “a mensch with a microphone,” and choking up as he thanked the anchors for allowing him time on-air to remember is friend.

Grunberg also took to Twitter to express his feelings :.I am numb and shocked at the news of my friend Sam Rubin passing. He cared about everyone that he met and always took the time to smile and ask about family and was the best at what he did. I can’t believe this news. So devastating and sad. Thinking about his beautiful family right now.

And knowing how generous he was with his time and loyalty to people I’ve known for decades who knew him far better than I did, I couldn’t use any words more apropos than those that Grunberg shared yesterday.

So forgive me if I’m more than a bit emotional than usual as I write this.  These were all men younger than I who one day woke up perfectly healthy with a loving family and never lived to see the next day.  George Cooper was fictional.  Sam Rubin was beloved by millions he never truly knew.  Juan Carlos Flores was just as beloved by his family and the staff of the store he rose to a leadership position with.

If you haven’t yet given your loved ones a genuine hug today, or at least reached out via phone, text or whatever medium you fancy to give the virtual equivalent, resolve to do so before you drift off the sleep.  And if you’re fortunate enough to have a mother or a maternal presence still in your life tomorrow morning, double down on that resolve.

And if by chance you want to include Vanessa Flores in your thoughts, here’s the link to do so.   I’m sure contributions would be welcomed, but considering who won’t be hugging her this year, even your thoughts would be a genuine gift.

Until next time…

 

 

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