thank you, neil gaiman

Sometimes when we talk about fiction we say things like “it’s just a story” or “I know it’s not real”.

Bullshit, I say. It is real, and I’ll tell you why.

Last night I went to spend some time with my grandfather. He will likely pass away in the next 48 hours. He’s in a hospice facility where they are focused on making him comfortable and allowing him to rest until he moves on. I spent a few minutes with him in private, telling him how and why I’m thankful for the role he’s played in my life and wishing him peace.

His health has been declining for years, and still I was affected by the experience. I wanted so much to do something to ensure that the space he is in now be a sacred space. A space free of negativity and conflict. A space in which he can be as comfortable as possible.

As I drove home from the hospital, I listened first to The Avett Brothers‘ “Head Full of Doubt”, which has just recently become my favorite of their songs. So much so that I listened to it twice. Then, not knowing what I wanted to hear next, I found myself drawn to Amanda Palmer‘s new album. I put it on and let its powerful tones wash over me. Listening to her sing–she has a wonderful voice–I thought of Neil Gaiman, to whom she is married. And then I thought of Death as he pictured her in The Sandman Series.

The Sandman Series was the first thing I read by Gaiman. It’s a set of graphic novels about seven immortal siblings: Dream, Desire, Destiny, Destruction, Despair, Delirium and Death. In Gaiman’s dark but brilliant world, Death is a chipper goth girl. She’s all heavy eyeliner, cheesy jokes and warm smiles. When a human dies, she’s there to gently take them by the hand and lead them…beyond.

Driving home last night, knowing my grandfather will soon pass away, I found tremendous comfort in that image. I want to believe that someone, something, will be there to take him by the hand. I do believe that. It may not be Gaiman’s image exactly, but I believe he won’t be alone, and I believe his companion will be kind to him.

People say fiction isn’t real. They are wrong. It’s as real as we allow it to be. I fell asleep last night imagining my grandfather’s reaction to Death’s goth makeup and wide smile. She’ll probably laugh when she sees the look on his face.

Thanks, Neil. It’s a comforting, beautiful picture you’ve given me.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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