My cousin Christopher Todd Hartshorne passed away yesterday, suddenly and unexpectedly, much too soon. The news hasn’t really sunk in.

It was like that with my mom last Fall. The grief didn’t really register until I looked at her watch and her glasses by her bedside and realized she would never need them again.

C.T. Tucker, known to us in his youth as Cousin Crispy, has been an inspiration to me since we were baptized together in 1952.

My grandmother Essie had a favorite story about the occasion in which Chris objected to his handling by the minister and let him have it in the only way he knew how.

Chris’ father Kim was a brilliant musician who gave up his musical career for reasons that seem silly today and became a banker.

It was part of the mantra that Kim’s brother, my father, the lawyer who wanted to work at the racetrack, recited to me on one or two occasions: ‘You can’t do what you want to do.’

The lesson was not lost on Chris, and he did what he wanted to do his entire life. He made his living as a musician for years and years, and I do not recall his ever being in a band where anyone else was the leader.

Kicked out of school for refusing to cut his hair, busted speeding in a stolen car with a pound of pot, climbing over the wall of a juvenile detention facility in his pajamas, Chris was always brave and determined — much more so than I — and he lived life on his own terms.

People like that become a beacon for everyone around them and C.T. in his day inspired thousands of people with the idea that you can do what you want, and to hell with anybody who stands in your way.

I do not deny that this manner of living is fraught with peril; the examples are all around us; but Chris was fortunate to find a wonderful woman who, by his own account, rescued him and helped steer him in the right direction.

The sad thing is Chris had really just hit his stride and he was a hugely successful animal wrangler for movies and television, and he had equipped his farm with state-of-the-art solar panels and a great outdoor woodstove that could take six-foot logs.

I talked to him just two months ago about his wonderful Dr. Seuss menagerie of llamas, donkeys, pigs, sheep, horses, and whatnot. Lately he’d been having success breeding miniature beagles.

He said he’d been having back problems, but a week or two later they said he had lymphona all over, and they tried a lot of stuff and then yesterday he passed away.

If you didn’t know Tucker, or even if you did, check out this video by my friend John Kunhardt, in which Chris plays Joe Kennedy. The part was written by my brother Paul Hartshorne in his musical Love Field.