• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

I’m sick of death. It’s touched my life too much in the last couple of years. In that time, 15 people, who were close to me in varied ways, have died. My parents, my brother, my priest, close family friends, my hairdresser, high school and college classmates, co-workers and dear neighbors.

Enough is enough, God. Can we pause for a while? Please?

I keep hoping but then, last week, while listening to early morning news as I slowly awoke before the alarm, I heard about Ray.

Ray Bradbury. The author, the writer, had died. He was 91.

I’ve added him to my list of friends who’ve died.

Ray Bradbury was a man who played an important part in my life since I was a child. I was an early reader, and from the moment I discovered his works in my local library, I read everything of his I could find and that’s continued to this day.

This morning, I checked my own library, and I have more than 30 volumes of his writings, some individual stories, some collections. I’ve read all of them, many several times.

The words Bradbury put on paper were (and are) profound and uplifting and magical and transporting and perceptive and visionary and frightening and challenging. All that and so much more.

How do you describe a man of such talent and genius and skill and imagination? It’s impossible.

Ray Bradbury was a man who lived to write and wrote to live, who wrote every day of his life, and now he has died. The first news report just noted name and death. Later news was more complete, but it could never capture what Bradbury has meant to generations of children and adults.

I didn’t need the alarm to wake me after that. I was awake and crying. I wanted to know what happened and searched the Internet for more news and reaction to the loss of this man who was so real, down to earth, unique, and yet, very approachable.

I feel as though I’ve lost a friend. His 92nd birthday would have been Aug. 22 – the same day as my daughter’s birthday. In the last week or so, I was thinking that I should send him a note of upcoming congratulations.

I didn’t, and now it’s too late.

But it’s not too late for my memories. I remember when I was a little girl in New Jersey, home alone one night, reading “The Veldt.” I didn’t know that word and I didn’t know how words could chill and at the same time fascinate. All these years later, I’ve never forgotten the feeling.

I remember a camping trip during a rainstorm as the water beat down on the canvas, being in a sleeping bag with a flashlight, reading “The Martian Chronicles.”

How could I ever forget the fantasy of “The Illustrated Man” as Bradbury’s words took me on a mystical journey?

I read the first edition of “Fahrenheit 451″ and thought it imagination. Years later, it was re-released with a special forward by Bradbury, and I read it again. I realized with a chill, he’d accurately forecast what our lives have become and how much worse it could be if people don’t resist.

Some categorize Ray Bradbury as a writer of “science fiction,” but he was so much more than that. He described himself as a writer of fantasy and imagination.

Ray Bradbury was everyman and he was everyman philosopher. His writings weren’t political, but they contained the astute observations of a man who could look at our world and see the direction we were heading. He didn’t always like what he saw, but it didn’t prevent him from putting the words on paper to live forever in the minds of his readers. He was smart and perceptive and astute.

A while back when I was anchoring the news on KTVU, in the early evening, I started watching a movie on my small, black-and-white desk TV. I didn’t see the beginning, so I didn’t know the title, but I got interested and watched to the end. It left me in tears; such was the emotion of the story line. I could hardly compose myself.

That destroyed my TV makeup, which had to be redone for the newscast, but it was years before I discovered the story title and the author. I’d picked up a secondhand paperback of Bradbury stories titled, “A Medicine for Melancholy.” As I read through, I found it!

That wonderful story, which I’ve never forgotten, is “All Summer in a Day” – seven pages of magic and emotion.

In 2005, when “Bradbury Speaks” was published, I invited Ray Bradbury to be on my KSFO radio program. He agreed after we had the opportunity to talk before the show. He was like an old friend.

I asked a favor: I’d bought a copy of his book for my daughter and wondered if he’d inscribe it for her if I sent it to him. He said yes, and did, and more than that, he telephoned her and they had a wonderful conversation. She’s barely recovered from that – even now! She was almost struck speechless knowing that this incredibly famous, talented, accomplished literary hero of hers was actually on the other end of her telephone in Los Angeles.

I was fortunate enough to have conversed with him a few more times off air and he was on my program twice! Imagine, two hours with my literary idol. I’m still thrilled.

He was a small-town boy who educated himself in libraries and opened a world into which we all were invited.

Ray Bradbury may have left us, but his writings are there for all to savor. Choose a volume, get comfortable and go into his world. You’ll never forget it.

I can’t say “goodbye” to someone who’s been such an intrinsic part of my life from childhood to maturity.

So I’ll say, “Good Night, Ray Bradbury. Thank you for you and for filling my world, my brain and my imagination with pure joy.”

Follow Barbara Simpson on Facebook.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.