Well I just read the news. I was getting on the web to do some surfing and there it was. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. has passed on. He was 84. I’m sure that like most people I did a double take and thought maybe I read it wrong. No such luck. As the reality of it sunk in, the memories of his books started coming back to me. I have several on my bookshelf and love them all. For me, Kurt’s writing was very important. When I was in my early teens my brother gave me a copy of Breakfast of Champions. It became the first book I’d ever read all the way though on my own time. I just couldn’t put it down. Or course I’d read books for school and children’s books when I was little, but I really wasn’t much of a reader until I got that paperback. It was magical and changed me and the way I thought about what could be written and how stories could be told. Up until that point I never knew that books were being written like that. The humor and absurdity of it blew me away. I was so taken by it that I started writing my own stories not long after that, a direct result of reading that one book.
Every so often a famous person dies and the story hits the news everywhere. Most of the time its just some old actor or politician who was sick and we all remember when they were in their prime. Then we just go back to our lives and forget about it by lunchtime. But, every once in a while someone famous dies and a little light burns out in our heart. This person wasn’t just a name on TV or the author of a great book. Sometimes that person meant something very special to us. They were a part of our childhood and the memories we have of it. The late Fred Rogers from the PBS show Mister Roger’s Neighborhood comes to mind. I’m usually not that emotional but I actually cried when I heard that he passed away. Imagine a thirty-something me sitting in front of the TV watching the news crying over a the death of a man I’ve never met. I was also saddened when Dr. Carl Sagan died. Like so many others I watched Cosmos and was completely fascinated by all the wondrous things Dr. Sagan would describe and teach us. I went on to read his books too. We lost another great one when we lost him.
It amazes me how we never realize that some of the people who have greatly influenced our lives in a positive way, we’ve never actually met. These people reached out and touched millions. They taught us to think and explore and try something new and have a few laughs along the way. That’s a gift that can never be repaid. I miss them all and can be thankful that they’ve each left something behind that we can enjoy. I can still go to the neighborhood of make-believe when I turn on the TV and watch reruns of Mister Rogers if I want. I can put Cosmos on the DVD player and relive those discoveries billions and billions of times. And of course, I am rereading Slaughterhouse-Five as I write this. Thank you Mr. Vonnegut, wherever you are. And so it goes.
Labels: All of My Heroes Are Dying: Good-Bye Mr. Vonnegut