Terry Pratchett was my favorite author. I hate that I have to use the past tense in that sentence. Like so many others, Terry Pratchett’s books have touched my life in more ways than I can count. My sense of humor came from the wit of Discworld, my imagination cultivated in that world and its characters, my personal belief system helped formed by the books I read throughout my life. I never met him, he never knew I existed but without his words, I would not be the person I am today. Like so many others, I am deeply saddened by his passing, even though I am glad he was able to die the way he desired and not undergo a public deterioration of his mental capacities. He legitimately made the world a better place. He made my life a better place.
It is no secret that my absolute favorite book is Night Watch, and much of my dry humor comes from Vimes. But the book that has given me the most comfort throughout all of these years is Small Gods, and it’s that book that comes to mind now. During a time in my life where I found myself further and further dissuaded by religion and fearing my place in the world came these words from Sir Terry:
“What have I always believed?
That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.”
Regardless of religious and philosophical debate on the truth of that statement, I cannot properly describe how much comfort it gave a young and confused girl fearful of the future and the realization of death, the relief and sense of peace that washed over me reading that. When things in my life felt out of control, I had Discworld to turn to. I could read these books and laugh and be happy and find truth that resonated with me. And no matter what, I’ll still always have Discworld and the books of Terry Pratchett to help me in the future.
It hurts me to say goodbye to this author who is such a central part of my life. And so, as before, I find comfort and humor in his writing:
“Hah. I wasn’t expecting you,” he said.
Death stopped leaning against the wall.
HOW FORTUNATE YOU WERE.
“But there’s still such a lot to be done…”
YES. THERE ALWAYS IS.
Brutha followed the gaunt figure through the wall where, instead of the privy that occupied the far side in normal space, there was…black sand.
The light was brilliant, crystalline, in a black sky filled with stars.
“Ah. There really is a desert. Does everyone get this?” said Brutha.
“And what is at the end of the desert?”
Brutha considered this.
Death grinned and stepped aside.
What Brutha had thought was a rock in the sand was a hunched figure, sitting clutching its knees. It looked paralyzed with fear.
“Vorbis?” he said.
He looked at Death.
“But Vorbis died a hundred years ago!”
YES. HE HAD TO WALK IT ALL ALONE. ALL ALONE WITH HIMSELF. IF HE DARED.
“He’s been here for a hundred years?”
POSSIBLY NOT. TIME IS DIFFERENT HERE. IT IS…MORE PERSONAL.
“Ah. You mean a hundred years can pass like a few seconds?”
A HUNDRED YEARS CAN PASS LIKE INFINITY.
The black-on-black eyes stared imploringly at Brutha, who reached out automatically, without thinking… and then hesitated.
HE WAS A MURDERER, said Death. AND A CREATOR OF MURDERERS. A TORTURER. WITHOUT PASSION. CRUEL. CALLOUS. COMPASSIONLESS.
“Yes. I know. He’s Vorbis,” said Brutha. Vorbis changed people. Sometimes he changed them into dead people. But he always changed them. That was his triumph.
“But I’m me,” he said.
Vorbis stood up, uncertainly, and followed Brutha across the desert.
Death watched them walk away.
May your journey across the black desert be a peaceful one, Sir Terry. Thank you for everything you ever did for me, things you couldn’t possibly know of but you did all the same. Say hello to Death’s cats for me. There is always so much still to be done, but you did so much. Thank you.