Yesterday, the world lost Terry Pratchett. He was 66 years old and had written at least 50 books for children, teenagers, and adults.
I didn’t know him, of course. He was somewhere in Britain, I think, and here I am, decisively not in Britain.
But I knew him through his books.
They are funny and deep at once, speculating on life and death through the mouth of the Wee Free Men and of Miss Tick and Miss Treason and of Tiffany Aching; speaking about our world by building his own. They feel personal, even in their generalizations.
I always feel some amount of grief when a writer who wrote something I knew dies. I was sad when Maurice Sendak died, even though I never liked Where the Wild Things Are. I was sad when Maya Angelou died, even though I only read that one work of hers that one time for that English class.
But I didn’t know them through their writing the way I know Terry Pratchett through his. I didn’t feel like I had somehow lost a mentor and a friend that I had never had the chance to meet. Didn’t even fully realize that I would have liked to have met until it was too late.
But it isn’t too late.
Yesterday, I picked up one of his books, Wintersmith, and I read a passage from it. Pearl might know the passage—the one about Miss Treason and Death. And I met him again, the same way I did for the first time a couple years ago when I began to read The Wee Free Men. Every time I read the words that he wrote, I meet him as though for the first time, and I know him as though I have known him all my life.
Terry Pratchett was a writer. As long as his works survive, he will never truly die.
And Terry Pratchett was one of the best writers there are today. To me, he is among the greats of our modern world, the writers of classics that are too modern and too enjoyable to be considered “real” classics. Dismissed because they haven’t yet had a chance to stand the test of time. Along with Cornelia Funke, J.K. Rowling, Lloyd Alexander, and Shel Silverstein, he will never die.
Immortality belongs to the ones you can meet every time your eyes flit over the words that they lovingly traced onto a page.