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Soap opera icon Jeanne Cooper has died

I’m a little embarrassed because I’m sitting in the public library as I write this, crying my eyes out.

Sunglasses on. Maybe no one will notice?

I started watching The Young and the Restless in utero. Quality time with my mother consisted of her drinking red wine (she was on a liquid diet) and me eating dinner while watching Y&R after school every single day of my life.

During my summer vacations, I’d watch Y&R with my granny, who had emphysema and was confined to her living room. I swear there were days her illness was so bad, an epic Katherine versus Jill catfight was the only thing giving her the will to live.

For a lonely gay kid like myself, it gave me something to live for too.

I was that cliché little fag who read Soap Opera Digest, feigned sick so I could stay home from school and watch my soaps, and would lock myself in my bedroom pretending I was Katherine Chancellor, the grand dame of Genoa City, while other (much less fabulous) little boys were playing with their GI Joes. 

For anyone who didn’t grow up watching a show like Y&R, it’s hard to explain what the characters become to you. They were my friends. My family. My escape. I invited them into my life and loved them.

Katherine Chancellor was like another granny to me (albeit richer and much more scandalous). This morning, the actress who has played her since The Young and the Restless’s debut 40 years ago, in 1973, Jeanne Cooper, died at age 84 in her sleep.

Her son, actor Corbin Bernsen, took to Facebook to announce his mother’s death:

Wasn’t sure how I would have to say these words so I opt for simplicity at least to begin…

My mother passed away this morning just a short time ago, peaceful with my sister by her side, in her sleep. I was going to visit this afternoon, thought I had time. Reminder to self – time is a precious thing. I too am at peace however. I said my goodbyes several times over during the last few weeks. I’ll go one last time now for a gentle kiss a final farewell for this lifetime. She has been a blaze her entire life, that beacon, that boxer I spoke of earlier. She went the full twelve rounds and by unanimous decision… won! And while her light finally gave into the wind that gives flight to all our journeys, there will always be a glimmer left behind by what she stood for. I will speak about that more in coming days, months I suppose.

I will certainly dedicate what remains of my life to continue her purpose of honesty, equality, humility, empathy and love. So many of you have said your prayers for her and right now, today, I can say the best way to honor her is to inhabit your lives with those things she stood for. I would ask that closer friends respectfully give us some time to find our family’s path in this transition, and please limit calls, emails and the rest for a couple of days. As always, your outpouring of love here on this page, is not only welcomed to continue but truly appreciated and comforting. I asked my sister what time she passed exactly, and she told me (not to important for public record) but I was working out and just happened to pick out a song for my final moments on the treadmill – “Everlasting Light” by the Black Keys. Oh what a wonder it all is… what a magnificence!

Cooper will be remembered “as a daytime television legend and as a friend who will truly be missed by all of us here at the network,” Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, said. She added that Cooper brought “indelible charm, class and talent to every episode."

I hope my granny is there to meet her at those golden gates, because as Melissa Claire Egan wrote on Twitter after learning of her co-star’s passing, “Heaven just gained one feisty angel."

RIP, Mrs C.