“Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”
Death is a funny thing. I don’t think anybody really believes in it, because it is a truth, and we humans are very good at ignoring those. Lies are our forte. After all, we invented them. Before us, the universe was chaos, as true as can be; but then we started naming things, defining, telling the world what it is. We created demons who live in hearts to explain our suffering, and monsters in the sky to tell us who to hate. We invented language and maths, war and peace – and we came up with the biggest whoppers of all:
We huddled in the dark and lied so hard that the lies became truth. Our truth, and our story.
But stories have to end, don’t they? No matter how we struggle. We seek closure, but cannot truly comprehend those dark words: THE END.
That is why some things should never be let go. But letting go is not the same as moving on, with the weight of knowledge on your backs and the wind of passing at your heels. That is what it means to be human – to leave no-one behind. Each life lights the next. So when our loved ones meet with that hooded gentleman with the scythe, we feel the need to remember, to write a life on our souls. The truth has caught up with them, as it will with us all, but…they will never fade away. Not an ending, but a passing. A turning of the seasons.
Terry Pratchett wrote Death for decades, first as a sinister figure, but steadily evolving into a sympathetic friend, an understanding presence, a regretful fact that, through human interaction, became more human than any of us.
When Terry wrote The Shepherd’s Crown, he knew he would soon greet his friend. Discworld has given us so much – for this writer, at least, it is part of life; a supporting pillar without which I would not be the person I am today – of which The Shepherd’s Crown is the point of closure, but never, never THE END. To me, it seems more like a pause at the door, a glance back, a nod and a wink.
The book is about Death, but Death is about life.
And life… Well, that’s for us to decide.
Terry’s legacy will live on, as long as we carry it in our hearts. There will always be a flat world resting upon the backs of four elephants, standing upon the back of a celestial turtle. There will always be beloved characters, hilariously witty lines, and devious stories exploring life, the universe, and everything. They are sealed in paper, and they are sacred.
Goodbye, Terry. Mind how you go.