"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is Death important?

Ray Bradbury is gone. I had met him exactly twice, after age had set him down in a wheelchair. It's interesting to watch people age. Some fight it with enhancements and surgery. Some literally run from it, as if staying physically active will make them ageless. Some kvetch and become bitter souls, as if getting older was Nature's personal vendetta against them.

Mr. Bradbury was none of those things. He aged because everything is born, grows old, and dies, and he knew this. But there was always a light in his eyes and hope in his voice. When I first saw him at a writer's association meeting, he seemed quite ill and could barely be heard, yet his words rang as bright as a bell. He spoke of his passion for writing and his youthful naivety, believing that if he wanted to do something, he could do it. Love what you do, he said. Love each other, love yourself, love is all there is.

At that moment, after reading and loving his books, I also loved him as a person.

A few years later, I met him at the Duarte Author's Festival. (CLICK HERE for the full report.) Although still in his wheelchair, he sounded much more hale and hearty (is hale ever without hearty?) and looked healthier. I gave him a copy of my first mystery. He flirted with me. It was heaven.

And now he is gone, at 91 years. Some might say it's a full and long life and others would like just a few years more. I'd like to think he had some special day at the end, some moment that allowed him to take one last, deep, breath and leave this earthly plane, headed for the next great adventure.

To me, nothing's more fitting than this paragraph from the end of Something Wicked This Way Comes:

The father hesitated only for a moment. He felt the vague pain in his chest. If I run, he thought, what will happen? Is Death important? No. Everything that happens before Death is what counts. And we've done fine tonight. Even Death can't spoil it. So there went the boys... and why not... follow?

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury. We've done fine tonight, and even Death can't spoil it.


Debbie Haas said...

Thank you, Gayle, for a lovely tribute. I never met him, but heard only lovely things about him from those who did. Love your closing paragraph...now I want to read the book!

Gayle Carline said...

It's a great book, Debbie. I'm happy to have piqued your interest in it.

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