I feel an intense sadness as I approach the end of The Sandman. No, it is more than sadness, it is grief. I wish to hold on for dear life to those characters. To that universe. To the stories. Stories that allowed me to travel through different ideas, emotions and worlds. I don’t know that life would have meaning if it didn’t end. I don’t know that books or stories would either. But that doesn’t change the fact that endings can hurt.
There is a heavy feeling in my chest. And yet I also feel there something harder to describe. What is it? I can only describe aspects of it: a sense of awe and wonder; a desire to share side-by-side with a desire to hide; the dread of resuming my life without Dream, Death, Delirium, Destruction, Destiny and Despair (that last bit reads rather absurdly given my status as a human being).
I discovered books and reading at a very early age. It is rather a miracle given that my grandparents spoke Spanish and that I was not read to. Families have their own stories—little mythologies. The story my grandparents told was that my desperate need to learn about dinosaurs somehow gave me the power to make sense of the words. I don’t know that this could possibly be true in any logical sense, but to quote Dream, “Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes…” The fact is probably that I had some genetic talent for words (certainly not math!) and that my visiting relatives read just enough to me to help me cultivate that gift. But my family chose the story that will endure: the story of a lonely boy who needed so desperately to go off into other worlds that he willed himself to it. That one is sad and lovely and sweet and inspiring and, just as importantly, shared by others who found refuge in their imaginations. It helps explain things in a way that feels more meaningful. And that is part of what good stories do: help us make sense of ourselves and the human condition in ways that captivate.
The Sandman is a tale about tales. It was written for me and for anyone who understands how important stories are, even the ones that are never shared or written down. I feel like I’m about to lose something. And I’m not sure if I am writing with any purpose other than to put off the inevitable fact that this book I cherish so deeply is about to end.
And yet…it won’t will it? I will carry it within. Others will carry it as well. And the books will be borrowed and bought and shared and the stories will live on after I am gone. Saying that does not remove the grief, but it somehow puts it in a warmer place.