I'd been expecting this for a while; I knew her health hadn't been good. But I'm still sad. It's hard to accept that someone who taught me so much about life is dead.
I think I picked up Wrinkle In Time when I was 10 or 11. I knew I'd never read anything like it before, and read straight through the whole Time series. Some of her books, I had to grow into (An Acceptable Time, and Many Waters, both of which are now favorites). Others, like Swiftly Tilting Planet, made an immediate impact.
A few years after reading Wrinkle, I discovered that L'Engle wrote non-fiction books based on her journals. I read the Crosswicks journals shortly after, of which The Irrational Season is possibly my favorite.
In late high school, I stumbled upon Walking On Water, her mediation on faith and art. To say that this revolutionized my view of the interaction between faith and art would be to damn the book with faint praise. It "baptized my imagination," to use Lewis' powerful phrase. I have read it regularly, at least once a year, ever since.
In college, when I was living with my grandmother for a short time, I checked out A Live Coal In the Sea from the library: I started it at 9pm, and finished at 2am, in tears. It remains one of the most powerful portrayals of human sin and God's mercy that I have yet seen in a modern novel.
Madeleine L'Engle was my introduction to sacramental thinking, and a constant reminder of the wonder in the everyday world. She was realistic, but never glum. She was able to see the wonders of science, without losing sight of God. She taught me to love beauty in all its forms, and to be willing to go into darkness if that is where God lead.
She wrote poetry that moved me past myself and towards God. "Farewell to all I thought was me, that I may find what these were meant to be."
How do you say goodbye to someone you never know, who meant so much, and who impacted you so deeply?
Goodbye Madeleine; I know you were not afraid of death, and I am sure that you are with God now, delighting in Him as you always did. You did so much to keep my heart soft when I would have hardened it, and to strengthen my faith when I would have lost it.
I will miss you.