This is not an obituary. Losing Terry Pratchett at a ridiculously early age was like losing a family member or a close friend, and I can’t muster, even if I wanted to, the ability to write three obituaries. I did an obituary for PJM for tomorrow, and I did a prayer on my blog, because it’s my home and you pray for your own dead.
This is something else.
Today we’re mourning Terry Pratchett, but even I who got to meet him a few times, am not mourning him precisely for who he was. I mean, I’ve talked to him and heard him talk, and he was a kind man, a family man, a benefactor of those who needed it.
But what we really mourn are the worlds unwritten, the characters that never got to come to life. It is a selfish thing when he gave us so many books, and so good. But we take good and want more, which is what readers do.
However, instead of just mourning him, I want you to consider his work.
Terry was not a blessed special flower, wafted up on winds of privilege, of knowing people, of connections, nor even of prestige.
He was a nobody, like us, who wanted to write his dreams, and who climbed up the ladder of publishing success hand over hand, sometimes (for many years) on bleeding fingernails. He was a striver who kept writing, who kept improving, who left behind a body of work that makes us crave more.
And what a body of work it was, glittering with humanity, studded with humor, sparkling of compassion. And how we’ll crave and miss the words never written.
What I want you to think about is what if we had had no words at all? What if Pratchett, faced with the difficulty of breaking in, had decided it was easier to go on with a workaday job?
He would still be a good man. His family and friends would still mourn him. If we’d heard of him, we might be saddened at his passing.
But there wouldn’t be stories left behind, no granules of joy and understanding to make the world a little less dark at his passing than it was at his coming.
Twenty years ago, in an hospital ward, faced with the fact that I was likely not going to see another sunrise, I realized I’d never been published and that all those stories, fighting their way to reality in my mind, had never been read by anyone. I felt I’d betrayed them. So I came out and started writing as hard as I could.
I’ll never be Terry Pratchett, but when I go my stories won’t go with me.
Consider now, whatever you feel you have to do, and how it would feel to die with your task incomplete.
Consider Sir Terry Pratchett, and take it from me, his route to writing all those stories, to reaching all those minds, wasn’t easy. There was craft to learn, the indifference of a corrupt establishment, and just… luck.
But he kept at it.
And we mourn today let us pause and be grateful that he did.
And then let us go and honor Pterry by persevering, working, and doing what we can as well as we can.