AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
It has been quite a while since I’ve had to deal with death in any real or meaningful way. The last family death that really mattered to me was my Grandmother, and that was almost 10 years ago. So I haven’t had to spend much, if any, time thinking about death or how it relates to me.
The closest I get is when someone I am fond of, a celebrity, dies. Last year it was Aaron Allston, writer of Star Wars and Forgotten Realms novels galore. Then earlier this year it was Leonard Nimoy, who to me had the voice of a wise and ever patient father. Now it is Terry Pratchett’s turn to cross over into another realm, away from this one, to spend eternity doing… something.
When Steve Jobs died, they said his final words were: “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.” – the mystery in what happens when Death comes to the door is veiled in mystery and treated with a reverence that few things are in life. It helps me feel better for the passing of Pratchett to imagine that a shadowy figure dressed like a Grim Reaper stepped toward him, amidst his family and friends, and said the phrase at the start of this article. (Taken from his Twitter account, which was the announcement of his death.)
To think on the death of another always brings with it thoughts of mortality. Death is difficult to cope with for a number of reasons, but for me, I find it most difficult to imagine what might happen next.
Years ago, when I still worshiped the Christian Deity, I imagined that when I died I would be transported to a magical kingdom where I might be able to visit with my Great Grandmother again, and live in peace with others. Now that I’m an atheist, however, I cannot subscribe to such a belief; I do not believe there is a God or a Heaven. I believe that this life may very well be the only chance we get.
I try to think back sometimes to my earliest memory, and then back before that. To try and imagine what the nothingness was like for the millennia before I was born. Being unable to do so leaves me worried about what will happen after I die. Do I have a soul? Probably not. I believe that I am a compilation of thoughts, actions, ideas and experiences. When I die, that unique perspective will die with me, and I hope the universe will be diminished, if even just a little, by my passing.
With Pratchett, though,our world is greatly diminished. A sharp wit that cut through social and political commentary with a casual grace afforded only those who practice their craft tirelessly has finally put down the pen and taken a well deserved break.
Whatever comes in the afterlife, Mr. Pratchett, be it a trip around the galaxy, or a castle in the sky, or simply nothingness… I raise my glass in salute to you. Your generous gift of wisdom and creativity was unmatched in my lifetime, and I sincerely thank you for having been source of enjoyment and experience in my journey.