River Phoenix’s mother remembers late son on his birthday: “He is very much alive in me”

"I would say he was and still is our greatest teacher"

Arlyn ‘Heart’ Phoenix, mother of the late River Phoenix, has paid tribute to her son on what would have been his 53rd birthday.

Taking to social media on Wednesday (August 23), Heart remembered River, the oldest of her five children, who died of a drug overdose in 1993 aged 23.

“August 23, 1970…one of the most amazing days of my life…bringing Earthbound a living being…truly a touch of the most sacred,” she wrote in an Instagram post.


The caption accompanied a photo with the timestamp ’88, which shows a teenage River with a guitar strapped over his shoulder.

“Just as he tried to do with most people, River Jude embraced each of his siblings (who entered through the same portal after him) with his humor, wisdom, authenticity, talent, compassion, vulnerability and undying Love.”

She continued: “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 tho quite different, the pain of my son’s passing.”

She added that, “almost instantaneously” with 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”.


Heart went on to say that there are “no guarantees in life” and that she didn’t believe anyone was promised that they’d be free of tragedy throughout their lifetime.

“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,” she continued. “River’s life and death taught me that, in no uncertain terms. I am in awe of the fact that he is very much alive in me. Thank you for all the precious messages that I have received through these past 30 years.”

River was known for his role in Rob Reiner’s 1986 film Stand By Me. Based on the story by Stephen King, the film was set in 1959 and followed four boys on who set out to find a dead body after hearing that a local teenager had been struck by a train.

He also starred in I Love You To Death in 1990, My Own Private Idaho in 1991 alongside Keanu Reeves and The Thing Called Love in 1993, his last completed film before his death. He also featured in Dark Blood which came out in 2012, completed two decades after his death.

Back in 2020, River’s brother, Joaquin Phoenix – who is the third of his five siblings – and his family spoke out about the oppressive media attention that followed River’s death.

“During that time at which you’re most vulnerable, there are helicopters flying over, people trying to sneak onto your land. Certainly for me it impeded the mourning process,” Joaquin said in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CBS news.

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