I don’t know where else to put this. I am quite torn up over the death of Terry Pratchett and my heart goes out to everyone else who feels his loss, especially his family. We all knew it was coming, in that vague sense that it was over the next horizon or beyond that. It was a vague thing, amorphous and hiding in the distance of “someday.”
I think we’re all sharing our stories about him, the way we always do when a friend or family member dies. Its healthy, its part of what makes us human. We remember the good times, and the bad, and we hurt for someone being taken from us. They’re almost always taken too soon. So, in my own sense of vanity or something, I’m going to share my small story about Terry Pratchett, a small tribute to thank him for the wonderful worlds he’s created.
When I was a teen, I got sent off to boarding school. Looking back now, it was obviously the right thing to do. In the way that we don’t usually get to see that there was an obvious right and an obvious wrong answer. I didn’t see it as the right answer at the time. I thought it was terrible. I was homesick and around a bunch of other homesick boys. This meant you couldn’t cry, or at least you couldn’t be caught crying. I had left behind the people I knew, the town that I had just felt that I was settling into from a previous move, and I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself.
Into that time of feeling sorry for myself, one of the teachers at the boarding school gave me a Terry Pratchett book. My first one was Jingo. This is going to seem weird, but before that book I didn’t realize that you could write a book that was both funny and not-funny. This was my relatively simplistic way of appreciating that Pratchett could present worlds that were serious, meaningful, and powerful, but also make you laugh the whole way through. Through humour he tackled issues, and used a flat disc of a world as a mirror for our own.
That book led to another, then another, and by the end of the year I had read nearly every book he had published by that time. These books opened me up to other new books; it was like reaching some second renaissance in my reading (the first having been in grade three when I read over 100 books in the course of a school year). But more than that, it gave me an opportunity to make new friends again. To get outside of feeling sorry for myself and to quit being so much of an angst ridden teen.
I look back now and, well, I’m sad. Most of those friendships are gone now; slipped away in the passing of time and the inevitable march of things getting in the way. Disagreements or fights or even just apathy. They weasel their way in to your life and we all are guilty of letting it happen sometimes.
But I remember that paperback with the colourful cover on it, the name I didn’t recognize across the front cover in giant letters, the first pages already taking themselves seriously but also taking the piss. It was glorious, and it changed me. Pieces got rearranged.
Sir Terry Pratchett, I know you’ll be missed by me and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of others. Thank you. For everything.