It’s been a rough few weeks if you’re a geek. We’ve basically lost two grandfathers, both what felt like too soon: Leonard Nimoy on February 27th, and Terry Pratchett today.
Sadly, they were both deaths we’d braced ourselves for. Nimoy announced he had COPD last year, and him being taken to the hospital brought up the dreadful possibility that became all to real a mere week later. As for Pratchett, we’d known his Alzheimer’s would eventually take him from us, but it had been eight years and he was still putting out Discworld books and it felt like we’d have him for a bit longer. Now they’re both gone, and the world is both a little less logical and a little less silly.
Of the two, Nimoy’s passing hit me harder. I’d written a post about how even the thought of his death affected me, just three days before he died. The day it happened, I felt completely out of it. “No no no no no,” I muttered when I first saw the news, and I felt like I had to tell someone, that to share it would mean I didn’t have to deal with it alone. As word spread, and the tributes popped up online, I felt sadness, but also hope at the sense of being part of something bigger that Nimoy had created not through his death, but through his life. At the end of Wrath of Khan, Dr. McCoy says, “He’s not really dead. As long as we remember him.” In that case, Nimoy will live forever.
As for Pratchett, he never quite held the place for me Douglas Adams did (another voice taken from us far too soon), but I always held a deep appreciation for how he kept his Discworld series going. The sheer variety of what he did — weaving such a huge cast of characters through forty odd books without growing stale or repeating himself — is something all too rare in genre fiction, where series go on and on hitting the same notes over and over again. What made Pratchett’s illness particularly poignant is that we knew it could eventually rob him of the very thing that made us cherish him: that dazzlingly inventive mind of his. That we were gifted with his words very nearly right until the end — his final Discworld novel sees publication later this year — is I’m sure small comfort for those who are a little less light-hearted this evening, but those words will help him attain a sort of immortality as well.
And so, as one of the final posts on Pratchett’s Twitter feed read, “AT LAST WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.” The alien and the wizard, the Vulcan and the Hogfather. Live long and prosper, and cats are nice.