Today the world lost another of it’s funny men, and it too lost a prolific author, an activist, and a very ridiculous person. Sir Terry Pratchett has died today.
Both Robin and Scotty have read the work of Terry Pratchett for years, at one point we even dressed up as Discworld characters for Halloween while deeply under the influence. Trying to explain to others what we were while so high we could barely speak made for a party that was unforgettable.
The Discworld series was at times so hilarious and ridiculous that I couldn’t read the books before bed because I would be up all night laughing so hard, and at other times, it was so somber and thought provoking that I would be reduced to near tears.
Terry Pratchett fought a long battle with a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease and following his diagnosis he campaigned vigorously for the right to die movement in Britain stating that he wanted to meet Death on his own terms, terms that involved a glass of wine, a lawn chair and some classical music.
I’ve worked in healthcare. When Terry Pratchett wrote Discworld, when I read about Death and Granny Weatherwax, he spoke to me, and when he gave his lecture on Shaking Hands With Death, he spoke to me, but deeper this time. Terry Pratchett put a face to all of my patients, and gave each of them a voice. His words were poignant, truthful, and heartbreaking.
Terry Pratchett became that figurehead for Alzheimer’s disease. Rarely when mentioned in popular media was the disease without reference to him, a famous victim.
Of Death, Terry Pratchett wrote in his Shaking Hands with Death:
“When I was a young boy, playing on the floor of my grandmother’s front room, I glanced up at the television and saw death, talking to a Knight and I didn’t know very much about death at that point. It was the thing that happened to budgerigars and hamsters. But it was death, with a scythe and an amiable manner. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but I had just watched a clip from Bergman’s Seventh Seal, wherein the Knight engages in protracted dialogue, and of course the famous chess game, with the Grim Reaper who, it seemed to me, did not seem so terribly grim.
The image has remained with me ever since and death as a character appeared in the very first of my Discworld novels. He has evolved in the series to be one of its most popular characters; implacable, because that is his job, he nevertheless appears to have some sneaking regard and compassion for a race of creatures which are to him as ephemeral as mayflies, but which nevertheless spend their brief lives making rules for the universe and counting the stars. He is, in short, a kindly death, cleaning up the mess that this life leaves, and opening the gate to the next one. Indeed, in some religions he is an angel.”
Death really was a favourite character for both of us here at the graveyard, and we both only hope that it was this kind Death, this good Death that spirited Sir Terry Pratchett away today.
Robin is finding it pretty hard to smile today, and I wish to leave you with my very favourite quote from the Discworld books:
“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.”