I’ve heard it said that you don’t truly love something until you see someone else love it. I think there is truth to this.
I never read much Terry Pratchett to be honest. His books were always high on my list, but I never quite got to them. But people I know loved him, and without reading much of his work, I recognize him as a great writer, who’s work got tragically cut short by disease. As Alzheimer’s has wreaked its havoc in my own family, perhaps his death rung truer than most. For a writer I never really read, I’ve thought of him often the past few days, imagining the frustration a writer would feel as Alzheimer’s took it’s toll. But I think it may be more than that.
Neil Gaiman is one of my all time favorite writers, and was good friends with Terry Pratchett. What I think is most powerfully incredible about writing is that it allows us to hop into others’ heads for a while, to think like they think and feel like they feel. Shortly before his friend passed away, Neil wrote a piece about his friend Terry Pratchett, and I feel that I grew to know him more through reading this, and watching some subsequent anecdotal interviews, than perhaps if I had read Terry’s fiction.
There are many great writers out there, but I think Terry was also a great human, and those are much rarer. He took one of my favorite writers under his proverbial wing before he’d published a Sandman comic or much of anything else. Terry faced Death bravely, and he raged against injustice and against his own disease until the end. He also continued writing, despite his fading mind, until last year, which I find absolutely remarkable.
Many will mourn a fantastic comic fantasy writer. But I am mourning a human I never met. Not because of the tragedy of his disease, and because I can relate to that tragedy in my own family and to the rage at the lack of Alzheimer’s research. Though I think that is part of it, I think I caught a glimpse of Sir Terry Pratchett through another’s eyes, and that made his writing, his rage, his disease, and his death, matter to me all the more.
Writing is a funny thing, and it is powerful.