The death of Anne McCaffrey on Monday at the age of 85 was a great loss to her family, friends, colleagues, and the millions of fans (generations of them) who were devoted to her Dragonriders books and other works. She was a remarkable woman because of her talent as a captivating story-teller, but especially as a friend, mother, and irrepressibly wonderful human being. They don’t come much better.
The following is a brief reflection I was asked to give at her service on Saturday, Nov. 26 in Ireland.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
The Lord was her shepherd. No one else could have gotten away with it so long. If she did occasionally want — it was her own amazing generosity that led to it. A couple of times, she asked me for a short term cash loan because she has literally given away every coin in her purse. An authentic Christian, she also preferred anonymity, and I know that in making some truly heroic donations, she insisted on not letting the left hand know what the right was doing.
Although they became home to a collection of remarkable horses, dogs, and cats, her pastures were always green. On the other hand, the waters around her were not always still, in fact rarely, but with a guiding hand, she sometimes seemed to walk on them. Her faith was not little.
Annie had a way of choosing the road not taken, which today is perhaps too often the path of righteousness, but she would be the first to guffaw at the suggestion. She was the least hypocritical of women, but hated even the semblance of evil. She didn’t fear it, but often railed against it. Nevertheless, she was not always a strict judge of human character because she preferred to believe that people were more righteous than in fact they were. When she was cheated, it hurt, but it failed to make her bitter, or lessen her faith in human decency.
Even so, I’m sure she’s had a few words with God about his staff, who did not always comfort her as much as they should have, but it’s sometimes hard even for God to get good staff these days. I was chuffed to say the least when back in 1981, she did not find me totally wanting but invited me back to Dragonhold as a kind of an occasional Weyr chaplain. We sometimes even talked about religion, the Church, and, yes, God. Several times I helped her with exasperated fans who wanted religion on Pern, but when after her Sis’ death Annie introduced a religious element in a short story she was working on, her daughter Gigi and I calmed the waters a bit, lest she appear to go overboard. She could be very enthusiastic.
Annie didn’t always wait for God to prepare a table in the presence of anyone, much less enemies — if she had any; she got there first. And if her cup occasionally overflowed a little with good Chardonnay, it was more often the cup of kindness and mercy that made her blessed with family, friends, colleagues, and that strange cloud of witnesses called “fans,” over 3 million of whom have now tapped into Google about the death of the Dragonlady of Pern, who has found a lasting dwelling place not only in the Lord’s house but in those millions and millions of hearts.