This week I heard a magical interview with Maurice Sendak on NPR's Fresh Air. You might recognize his name from Where the Wild Things Are, the author's most famous book. The host of Fresh Air, Terry Gross, interviewed Maurice Sendak on his latest book, Bumble-ardy, about an orphaned pig who wants to party.
A program that began as an interview about the author's latest work became a tender and intimate exchange, as Maurice Sendak reflected on his 83 years of life - all the death and sadness, the blessings and joys, the creativity and hard work of an artist.
Sendak was caring for his friend and partner of 50 years when he wrote Bumble-ardy, an experience which I think is reflected in the depth and humor of this pig's story.
"When I did Bumble-ardy, I was so intensely aware of death," he says. "Eugene, my friend and partner, was dying here in the house when I did Bumble-ardy. I did Bumble-ardy to save myself. I did not want to die with him. I wanted to live as any human being does. But there's no question that the book was affected by what was going on here in the house. ... Bumble-ardy was a combination of the deepest pain and the wondrous feeling of coming into my own. And it took a long time. It took a very long time."
The honesty and intimacy of Sendak's words brought me to tears. He spoke of a life well-lived, of great fullness and satisfaction. But he also spoke of loneliness and death with such depth as I've never heard before. There was something in his voice, in his words, that tugged at the spirit deep within me. It called out to the artist and personhood in me to live and create just as fully. I wish there were more people like Maurice Sendak in the world, not more lonely 83 year-old men, just more writers, artists, honest thinking and living people who could speak of their life's work and their relationships in such profound gratitude and sincerity. I only hope that at 83 years old, by the grace of God, I will be able to speak of life and death with the same integrity of spirit and greatness of soul.
In turn, I offer you, Mr. Sendak, all the hope that is in me, the confidence with which I believe in a life beyond this one. A world of wholeness, divine peace, and redemption. I thank you for your honesty and your wisdom, your dedication to the creative act, for writing whatever came to you - whether it be a poem about a nose or the story of a pig who wants nothing but a party. I beseech you to embrace all the grace, hope and splendor of this world of wonder as you live out your life.
Now, if you haven't already paused to hear it, go and listen to Maurice Sendak's words: This Pig Wants to Party: Maurice Sendak's Latest.
"Live your life, live your life, live your life."