Arlyn “Heart” Phoenix has shared a touching message in remembrance of her late son River Phoenix, on what would have been the actor’s 53rd birthday.
River, whose younger brother is Joaquin Phoenix, died on 31 October 1993 at the age of 23 due to a drug overdose. His birthday fell on Wednesday 23 August.
Heart posted a candid photograph of River on her Instagram account. The image, which appeared to have been taken in 1988, showed River playing a guitar that was slung over his shoulder.
He is pictured with shoulder-length blonde hair, wearing a plaid shirt over a black T-shirt, with one arm raised and looking at a faraway point off-camera.
His mother wrote that bringing her eldest son into the world on 23 August 1970 was “one of the most amazing days of my life”, adding that it was “truly a touch of the most sacred”.
“River Jude embraced each of his siblings (who entered through the same portal after him) with his humour, wisdom, authenticity, talent, compassion, vulnerability, and undying love,” she wrote in a lengthy caption.
“I would say he was and still is our greatest teacher. The greatest pain I experienced in my life was the pain of natural childbirth and, even though quite different, the pain of my son’s passing.”
“But almost instantaneously on both occasions, the gifts that he brought were imbued in each of us and so we carry on celebrating his life for those 23 precious years. There are no guarantees in life and I don’t believe any of us were promised that we would not experience ‘tragic moments’,” Heart added.
“I count it one of the greatest blessings by living in the moment and drawing upon inner knowing as a sacred pathway to navigate through life’s many challenges. River’s life and death taught me that, in no uncertain terms.”
She went on to write that her late son was “very much alive” in her, and thanked fans for “all the precious messages” they have sent her over the last 30 years.
River’s death occured at The Viper Room venue in West Hollywood, California. At the time, Joaquin was with him.
Their sister Rain Phoenix, 50, also paid tribute to her late brother on social media and shared two photographs of the Stand By Me star on her Instagram account, accompanied by the caption: “Happy birthday River.”
One of the photographs was a black-and-white portrait of River as an adult, while the other showed River and Rain as children sat side-by-side as they smiled for the camera.
In 2020, Joaquin, 48, opened up about the impact that his brother’s death had on their family. The Oscar-nominated Joker star is usually extremely private about his personal life, but spoke candidly about the tragic event during a special episode of 60 Minutes with US journalist Anderson Cooper.
“River was a really substantial actor and movie star, and we didn’t really know it,” Joaquin said. “So during that time in which you’re most vulnerable, there are helicopters flying over. There are people that are trying to sneak onto your land.
“Certainly, for me, it felt like it impeded on the mourning process, right?”
Heart, who also appeared in the episode, agreed with Joaquin, adding: “The grieving process happens out of nowhere, you know? I’ll be driving and all of a sudden, I will feel it. And I’ll just welcome it.”
Heart had five children in total, including River, Joaquin and Rain. River was her eldest child, followed by Rain, and then Joaquin. She also has two younger daughters, Liberty and Summer.