Do it now, do it now, do it now.

On Saturday, I heard that my favorite author had died. Rest in peace, Diana Wynne Jones. May perpetual light shine upon her.

On March 2nd, I had a very strong urge to write fan mail to Diana Wynne Jones, to tell her that my daughter had discovered her work. I looked around online until I found a working email address (it would have gone to her assistant) and also there was an update on the site saying that her health had improved. I know the date because I opened a new email and inserted the email address, but then I didn’t write it.

I worked on finding the right things to say. I would have used the subject line “third generation fan.” I played with the words. I might have told her that whenever I have been interviewed about my writing, they invariably ask me for my favorite authors, and I begin the list with her. That I have read Archer’s Goon and Howl’s Moving Castle more than three times each. That my husband has read Howl’s Moving Castle to our two oldest, and when the time comes, the youngest two will hear it as well.

And I didn’t write the letter. I didn’t send it. There’s always time. Except when there’s not anymore.

I’ve been “warned” like that a few times in the past. Hearing my husband make plans with his friend for us to go visit him and his dying wife (also with cancer) they waffled between two weekends to make the trip. They settled on the later weekend, and I thought, That’s too late, but I didn’t want to say anything. How could I say, “Sweetie, I know you’re Patient, but what if death doesn’t wait?” She’d been doing better. Why change things just because I was paranoid?  And two days before our visit, she died.

It’s happened other times too. Sometimes I even listen. But this time, not.

One of my pet-phrases is “Tomorrow is not a promise,” by which I mean it’s never a guarantee that we’ll still be here tomorrow. But other people’s tomorrows are not a promise either. So when you’re faced with something you ought to do to tell someone she’s appreciated — do it now, do it now, do it now.


  1. lbdiamond

    Great point! It is important to follow our instincts and not wait for another opportunity to arise…we don’t know if there will be one later on.

    1. philangelus

      I so often ignore the first prompting. 🙁

  2. capt_cardor

    After 62 years of living, some of my greatest regrets are the things I have failed to do. The lesson is… Carpe Diem.

    1. philangelus

      It’s hard when you’re tired, overwhelmed, full-up with other things to do. But the gestures we could have made are important because they would have impacted others’ lives.

      Not that she needed my particular bit of fan mail. I mean, she had Neil Gaiman at her side — the woman knew she was appreciated. But in the grand scheme of things, I probably owed it to her.

  3. Ana

    Amen, Jane.

  4. Pat

    My husband’s family had a special birthday party for his father on his 69th. He died before the next birthday. We were glad we didn’t wait.

    I thought for years of writing to the high school teacher who introduced me to John Donne (and through him, to other poets). When I finally took steps to get his address, I learned that he had died just a year earlier.

    Yeah. Don’t wait.

    1. philangelus

      Last fall I sent thank you notes to two authors whose work had been enlightening to me. One of them, I’m not joking, the book changed my life. There was no hurry with them, though. AFAIK, they’re both alive and well.

      But it’s not just death. We don’t know if someone needs reinforcement RIGHT NOW. If that person might be thinking, “Nothing I’ve done has ever mattered to anyone,” and your email will arrive at just the right time.

  5. TychaBrahe

    Back in 2009 I exchanged a series of e-mails with a poet/author whose work I adored. I had to cut short the correspondence, because work intervened.

    Recently I unpacked a box of books and found two of his, and thought to re-establish the communication. I even sent an e-mail.

    For some reason I felt compelled to Google him, whereupon I learned that about eight months previously he had killed himself in a very disturbing way. The accounts from his limited circle of friends say that his life was shadowed by depression. I will always wonder if all he needed in the time leading up to that moment was a good friend.

    1. philangelus

      I’m so sorry. 🙁 The questions after a suicide are just awful. *hugs*

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