Two days ago, July 5th, marked a month since the passing of Ray Bradbury, my great hero through all the years, whose work jump-started my interest in writing back when I was 13, and inspires me to this day. More than a hero, Ray also became a dear, dear friend, mentor, and teacher to me. As a child, I only had one grandfather. Later in life, Ray became my second.
I first met Ray in February 1996, a week before my 18th birthday, but our friendship truly formed in March 2003, when I booked a flight out to Los Angeles to see him at home for the first time. From then until this past April, just over nine years later, I flew from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles to visit Ray 32 times.
My relationship with Ray was –is– one of the deepest and most meaningful I will ever have. As a friend, he was enthusiastic, honest, and devoted. As a mentor and a teacher, he didn’t just teach me about the craft of writing; he reaffirmed and expanded my understanding of the joys life itself has to offer. As Ray so often said, he was an “optimal behaviorist,” and taught others how to “behave optimally.” Many, many times in the past month, I have recognized ways, some profound, others small, that he has positively influenced my life. So many other people, across several generations, have said the same about his impact on theirs –through friendship, conversation, a chance meeting, a lecture, a letter, or, of course, his writing. What a constant and lasting gift from him to the world.
This article is brief for two reasons: 1) Ray taught me that in writing, less is often more, and 2), I still miss him terribly, so writing about this is very difficult. But in conclusion, I thought I would share the following:
At Ray’s funeral on June 12th, I read his poem “This Attic Where the Meadow Greens,” my favorite of all the beautiful poems he composed over the course of his long life. For years, this poem, especially the last four lines, gave me comfort when thinking about loved ones I’ve lost. Now it also gives me comfort when remembering Ray himself.
The last four lines read:
“I only know on days like these
I hear his rushing run above the trees
Where his ghost tells me what life means
From attic where the meadow greens.”
Ray Bradbury taught me never to be ashamed of or embarrassed by saying “I love you.” I said it to him all the time. I still do.
I love you, Ray.