So I heard the news yesterday that Terry Pratchett, author of the witty, satirical and insightful Discworld series, died of Alzheimer’s aged 66 yesterday. His writing was an ever-present companion through my life, and I devoured Discworld books whenever I could get my hands on them. His thoughts on life, politics, religion and philosophy were profound and stood out amongst the humour in his books. Through them all ran a thread of sheer human goodness and a sense of the wonder, and the absurdity, of life.
For me, Pratchett’s best creation is his personification of Death. Not a fearsome Grim Reaper, but an empathic, gentle and oddly comforting figure.
I think his portrayal of Death, especially as it evolved in later books, was a mirror to his own growing awareness of mortality, and it certainly helped me come to terms with the fear of death and dying.
It is fitting, therefore, that his Twitter account notified us of his death in the style of the Death character, speaking in all caps:
AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.
I never met the man, but his work meant so much to me that I felt compelled to do something to mark his passing. I created a small shrine with books and depictions of Death, and offered a Hobgoblin ale as a libation, hailing Terry Pratchett as an ancestor of inspiration.
I don’t believe (and neither did Terry Pratchett, a committed Humanist and agnostic) in an afterlife, but I like to think that this small gesture meant something. It did to me.
The Pagan news site, The Wild Hunt, has a lovely article about Pagan responses to Terry Pratchett, a writer who, while not a Pagan himself, definitely understood Pagan sensibilities.
As the official statement said, “This world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds”. He was the closest the world may ever see to a real Wizard. Terry Pratchett once wrote that nobody is truly dead while the ripples they create in the world continue to be felt. His ripples will be remembered for a very long time to come.