Today, February 22, 2019, would have been famed crocodile hunter Steve Irwin’s 57th birthday.
Though Steve has been gone for nearly 13 years since he suffered a fatal attack by a stingray, his memory lives on through the ones he loved most — and even his very own Google Doodle commemorating the legend he was.
“Thank you for always being my guiding light,” Bindi wrote on Instagram today, alongside a picture of her father holding her in one arm and a koala bear in the other.
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But perhaps the most noteworthy memory of Steve was one dug up by his father, Bob, who discovered a letter written by his son over  years after his death. It was penned by 32-year-old Steve.
Bob discovered the letter in a sealed envelope when it fell out of a book he was reading during his memoir research.
On the front of the envelope was a brief but beautiful message: “Please be happy to know that your strength and wisdom have been passed on.”
Inside, Steve wrote a tear-jerking letter to his parents, commending them for their “strength and endurance” in raising him and calling them his “best friends.”
“Probably one of the most unfortunate things in a ‘Bloke’s Life’ is that it takes over 30 years to realise how essential you have been to build my character, my ethics and, most importantly, my HAPPINESS.
At 32, I am finally starting to figure it out. In good times and in bad, you were there. Your strength and endurance to raise me will not go unrewarded. My love for you is my strength!
For the rest of my life I will reflect on the unbelievably GREAT times we’ve shared and will continue to share. You’re my best friends!”
Facebook/Bob Irwin Wildlife Foundation
Bob shared the picture of the letter in a Facebook post along with some powerful words of inspiration about his late son:
“Working on this book, I have been constantly reminded of Steve’s boundless energy, infectious humour and unrestrained passion for wildlife in our far too short a time together. But he is still here, still with me and I am able to gain strength from him. What he stood for and what he was able to achieve means just as much now as when he was here in the physical world.
There are so many people who have been inspired by Steve Irwin. I am really, really proud of that. I hope that sharing these stories can be a pertinent reminder of the enormity of his legacy, a legacy that has not only taught us the importance of reconnecting with our environment but to be passionate in doing so.”
And it seems Steve’s sentiments for his father are reciprocated.
“My Dad, just the legend of the universe,” he once said in an interview with ABC TV. “When I was the tiniest little kid, I’d look up to my dad and he was larger than life, he was just this action hero. He was everything I wanted to be. And all I’ve done in my life is follow in his footsteps, mimic him and try to be him. And nowadays I just try to make him proud, mate.”
Though Steve is now gone, it’s beautiful to see this father-son relationship continue to flourish through fond memories, unfailing love and uncovered treasures when they’re least expected.
Happy Birthday, Steve Irwin!