Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015, RIP
My mom died a year ago today. Yesterday I attended a memorial service for my best friend’s mom, who died this past February. Also in February, Leonard Nimoy took a final bow and exited stage left. Most recently — just last Thursday — another star went out, and it was one that shone brilliantly in the sky for so many of us.
Sir Terry Pratchett finally got to meet one of his key characters. I like to think that, for him, it might have been like meeting an old friend — and sadly, a visitor he’s been expecting for quite a while now. We fans know that Death personally attends the passing of wizards.
And Terry Pratchett was a wizard beyond compare.
Seven billion flames flicker in the night. Some burn bright and fierce, some soft and steady, some jump and dance. Every turn of the world, 350,000 tiny new flames begin to shine.
And 150,000 go out.
A flame that always lit my world, always warmed me, always guided me, no longer illuminates my dark.
My mom. 1924-2014.
“And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.“
Death Watch. A vigil over a dying person. Waiting. Not knowing which tick of the clock brings change. Tick. This one? Tock. This one?
There are other watches. Surgery watch. That one often brings good news. One can be hopeful. The doctor approaches with a smile; tension releases in a flood of relief.
The only relief here is that someone else, someone you love, is finally free from pain. For the rest there is only loss.
The other side of a life. Birth watch. The watch that brings joy. And cigars and balloons.
Birth. Tick. Death. Tock.
Grains of sand passing through the hourglass of life. Each of us having that brief quick ride through the throat of reality.
And having gone from there to there, at last, coming to rest.
The strange attractor that centers my universe for now is the growing certainty my parents won’t see another winter. Even the fullness of summer may outdistance them. The spectre came as slowly as time and a well life permits, but a thousand similes paint its implacable gait. Ages turn into years become months, then weeks, days, finally hours and minutes. All clocks stop eventually.
That they shall likely walk off into the Great Unknown almost simultaneously describes in the final act the entire arc of their life. In a word: together. Happily — no, joyfully — married for nearly seven decades. Never cursed with wealth, but ever blessed with love, they were rich beyond measure. They are why, even still, I believe in love.
To the extent I am a good person, look no further than my mother and my father.
Imagine standing on a very tall hill in middle of a thick forest. Your hill is tall enough to take you above the trees; when you look out over the trees, you can see for miles around you. Ahead you can see another hill sticking above the trees; this is your goal.
You want to reach that hill.
A question arises; you are asked, “How long will it take to reach yon hill? What will you need along the way?”
Nearly all science fiction fans share a meme about the number 42. This meme comes from the Douglas Adams book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of the great “modern classics” (an apparent oxymoron, but it is just shorthand for ‘a recent work that is so good that someday it will be counted among the classics’). The book is the first in the “increasingly misnamed” trilogy that shares its name.
The trilogy is “increasingly misnamed” in that it now has five books. The joke is that, in science fiction, trilogies are as common as aliens, spaceships and time travel. In fact, depending on the context, there are a two trilogies that have earned the sobriquet, “The Trilogy.” (Issac Asimov‘s Foundation series in the context of pure SF; and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings books in the context of SF + fantasy.)
In any event, the number, 42, is the answer to the question.
Last time, I wrote about irony and the perverse universe. This time I want to write about something just as fundamental. It has the technical name, entropy, and there is a very technical definition that goes along with that name.
I’ll return to that later, but for now consider this simple truth: If you have a barrel of fine wine, and you add a teaspoon of sewage, now you have a barrel of sewage. On the other hand, if you have a barrel of sewage, and you add a teaspoon of wine, you do not have a barrel of wine.
You still have a barrel of sewage!
Last week a friend of mine experienced one of the worst things that can happen to a parent: outliving your very young child.
The past 16 months of her thread in life’s tapestry is particularly tragic and heart-breaking. It started a year ago March when her son, seven years old then, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given 12 months to live. Then, last November, her husband died at age 35 in an unexpected asthma attack. At that time, she was pregnant with their third child, a girl born this past May.
Last week this part of the thread finally ended having taken both men from her young life and leaving her to raise her new born and five-year-old daughter. If there is anything that leavens this heavy loaf, it is that she has the strong support of family and many friends. She is well-loved, which doesn’t balance the scales or make it easier to bear, but provides some solace. Her journey also should serve to remind us all just how rich and blessed our lives are and how we must cherish and appreciate each day. Continue reading