Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s disease

All Change

It’s been a weird few days.

Not, perhaps, in terms of my actual, personal existence – I mean, I still got up every morning, and went to visit friends, and spent time with my beloved people, and I even laughed, like everything was normal.

But, never far from my thoughts, there was a sparkly-eyed man beneath a big black hat, and the ache of knowing that he’s gone.

Image: taken by SJ O'Hart. 2013 reissue (Corgi), cover art by Josh Kirby. 'Lords and Ladies' originally published 1992, Victor Gollancz.

Image: taken by SJ O’Hart.
2013 reissue (Corgi), cover art by Josh Kirby. ‘Lords and Ladies’ originally published 1992, Victor Gollancz.

I read my copy of Lords and Ladies (which is the fourteenth Discworld novel, and – when I pressed myself to make a choice – the one I decided was my favourite) over the weekend, which meant most of my laughter was at scenes like the Lancre Morris Men doing the long-forbidden Stick and Bucket Dance, or the exploits of Casanunda the dwarf, the Disc’s second-greatest lover (his motto: ‘I try harder’); I think it was an appropriate way to begin my send-off of Sir Terry Pratchett. The only thing is, I might begin this process, but I don’t think it’ll ever come to an end. I’ll be saying goodbye to him for the rest of my life.

I’ve been following the grieving process of other fans (over the past few days, I think the Discworld community has grown extremely close, despite us only knowing one another ‘in the ether’), and it has made me feel proud to be part of a fandom like this one. There has been no horrible ‘trolling’ (at least, none of which I’m aware), and – by and large – the family and associates of Terry Pratchett have been treated with kindness and respect, if some thoughtless but well-meaning attempts at consolation, by fans on social media. Money has been raised for Alzheimer’s awareness and research, and will continue to be, with any luck (here’s a link to a fundraising page, if you want to check it out), and Sir TP’s books have been selling in huge numbers – which is, of course, the best way to honour his memory. I’m glad I have an entire bookshelf full of his novels to read at my leisure, collected over the span of my lifetime so far, but if I had the money I would buy second and third copies of all of them and gift them to people who’ve never read them, or simply leave them tucked into nooks and crannies to be found by passersby as my offering to the universe. All humanity (and more – I’m not speciesist!) is to be found within their pages.

If you know someone, or you are someone, who has never read a Pratchett book, then now is the time. Now is the time to find one, and open the covers. Step onto the Disc, and stay with it a while, and you may never want to leave. If you want a Neil Gaiman-y introduction to the flavour and humour of Terry Pratchett, then try Good Omens; if you’re in the humour for affecting, meaningful, written-in-the-bone storytelling about family, bravery and the facing down of monsters while armed with nothing more than a frying pan, then start with the Tiffany Aching books, a series-within-a-series. If you’re interested in setting off on an adventure with Rincewind the wizard and getting to know the Discworld, then begin at the beginning, with The Colour of Magic.

Whatever you do, just start somewhere. Keep the ripples of Sir Pterry’s life going. Keep the flame of his memory lit. Keep laughing at his jokes, and keep being amazed by the worlds of knowledge packed into his stories, and keep being moved by the emotion at the heart of his characters. Maybe, that way, the horrible changed reality we’re living in, the one where he’s gone, can be forced back up the Trousers of Time, and we can go down another leg instead – one where he’s still with us, and in good health, and where he has time to write down all the tales he wants to tell us.

And if not, at least we have the stories he did manage to write, which are good enough for a lifetime’s reading and re-reading. I’m just so sad that there won’t be any more.

The End

Knowing something is going to happen, I’ve found, doesn’t seem to make it any easier to bear when it eventually does. I – along with all of Sir Terry Pratchett’s millions of fans across the world – have followed his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease over the past eight years, willing him on (for as long as he felt able), wishing him well, sending him strength and courage and hope.

But we all knew that one day, probably sooner rather than later, ‘the embuggerance’ (as he called his illness) would wear him down. Yesterday was that day.

Image: theguardian.com

Image: theguardian.com

I learned of his passing on Twitter, which seems inappropriate somehow. I don’t know why. It seems impersonal, maybe; like the knowledge was second-hand. Terry Pratchett has been a part of my life for almost thirty years. I feel like I knew him personally. I feel like he was a dearly beloved uncle, one guaranteed to make you giggle at the most inappropriate moments, bound to make salacious comments over the vegetables at Sunday dinner, and the first to get up on a stool with a flagon in his hand and regale us all with verse after verse of Nanny Ogg’s famous ballad, ‘The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered At All.’ His smile, and his ever-present black fedora, are as familiar to me as the faces of my own family.

I can’t explain why he was so important to me. I loved his books, certainly. I loved his characters – his strong women, Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax, Tiffany Aching, Anathema Device, even Magrat Garlick, who is strong in entirely different ways to the others; his complex men, like King Verence of Lancre, Captain Carrot of the City Watch, and the incomparable Sam Vimes, and I adored the stories and the worlds  he created – but it’s more than that. It’s the fact that you can pick up any of his books, at practically any page, and read a paragraph or two, and if you haven’t either laughed, learned something new or been flattened by an amazing image or perfectly constructed sentence by the time you get to the end, then I’ll be the guy in the corner with a bladder on a stick. Terry Pratchett was not university educated, but I learned more from reading his books than I did from any university course I ever took. Every page was packed full of allusions, inferences, puns (or ‘punes’, for those in the know), and jokes which, sometimes, only made sense years later. I often had the experience of reading something in a textbook and realising, with a start, that I’d come across the idea already in a Pratchett novel – I just hadn’t known it at the time. I have been, and I’m sure I’ll continue to be, amazed on a regular basis by just how much world there is in his books – not just the fictional worlds of his immeasurable imagination, but of our world, too. His was an intellect rarely matched.

I wept for him yesterday, and I’m sure I’ll weep for him in the future. I can’t read the final few Tweets on his official timeline (@terryandrob) without blinking back tears, because they are so perfect. They are heartbreaking, but they couldn’t be more suitable. I’m staggered with admiration for Sir Pterry’s daughter Rhianna, who wrote the Tweets, and who pushed through her own terrible grief to share the news of her father’s passing with all of us who did not know him, but who loved him all the same. I know I am part of a huge fandom, almost a family, and that is a huge comfort. I know I’m not the only person who wept for Terry Pratchett yesterday, and I know that he will be remembered for many years to come. In his own words:

No-one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away. (Reaper Man)

By that Pratchettian logic, Sir Pterry will be with us until the end of time, and for that, and for his words and stories, I am truly glad.