Douglas was crying.
She roused herself again. "Now, why are you doing that?"
"Because," he said, "you won't be here tomorrow."
She turned a small hand mirror from herself to the boy. He looked at her face and himself in the mirror and then at her face again as she said, "Tomorrow morning I'll get up and seven, and wash behind my ears; I'll run to church with Charlie Woodman; I'll picnic at Electric Park; I'll swim, run barefoot, fall out of trees, chew spearmint gum.... Douglas, Douglas, for shame! You cut your fingernails, don't you?
"And you don't yell when your body makes itself over every seven years or so, old cells dead and new ones added to your fingers and your heart. You don't mind that, do you?"
"Well, consider then, boy. Any man saves fingernail clippings is a fool. You ever see a snake bother to keep his peeled skin? That's about all you got here today in this bed is fingernails and snake skin. One good breath would send me up in flakes. Important thing is not the me that's lying here, but the me that's sitting on the edge of the bed looking back at me, and the me that's downstairs now cooking supper, or out in the garage under the car, or in the library reading. All the new parts, they count. I'm not really dying today. No person ever died that had a family. I'll be around a long time. A thousand years from now a whole township of my offspring will be biting sour apples in the gumwood shade. That's my answer to anyone asks big questions! Quick now, send in the rest!"
-- Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine (1957)
YOU CAN'T DEPEND ON THINGS BECAUSE...And:
...like machines, for instance, they fall apart or rust or rot, or maybe never get finished at all... or wind up in garages...
...like tennis shoes, you can only run so far, so fast, and then the earth's got you again...
...like trolleys. Trolleys, big as they are, always come to the end of the line...
YOU CAN'T DEPEND ON PEOPLE BECAUSE...
...they go away.
...people you know fairly well die.
...peoplemurder people, like in books.
...your own folks can die.
He held onto a double fistful of breath, let it hiss out slow, grabbed more breath, and let it whisper through his tight-gritted teeth.
SO. He finished in huge heavily blocked capitals.
SO IF TROLLEYS AND RUNABOUTS AND FRIENDS AND NEAR FRIENDS CAN GO AWAY FOR A WHILE OR GO AWAY FOREVER, OR RUST, OR FALL APART OR DIE, AND IF PEOPLE CAN BE MURDERED, AND IF SOMEONE LIKE GREAT-GRANDMA, WHO WAS GOING TO LIVE FOREVER, CAN DIE... IF ALL OF THIS IS TRUE... THEN... I, DOUGLAS SPAULDING, SOME DAY... MUST...
But the fireflies, as if extinguished by his somber thoughts, had softly turned themselves off.
Granger stood looking back with Montag. "Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime."And lastly (h/t):
-- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
When I was a boy my grandfather died, ad he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands. And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands? He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.
-- Ibid (a page or two before the previous one)