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Letters About Literature National Winners 2012

National Honor Winner, Level 2: Ian Tindel - Newhall, CA

Dear Mr. Anthony,

Your book, On a Pale Horse, helped me cope with the loss of my grandfather. I loved him a lot, even though he was just extended family. He used to take care of me when I was young. It was a joy to be around him and his family. We used to gather at his house for important celebrations, like Christmas.

One day, it was discovered that he was suffering from prostate cancer. However, Grandpa was already in the end-term. He was in pain and it was hard on everyone. He insisted on staying in his house and so we had to watch him suffer. When he died, I was upset and confused, because I wanted him to live, but without seeing him in pain. I thought that his death was a great misfortune, and I began having a hard time concentrating on other things.

Then I read On a Pale Horse. When Zane becomes Death, at first it is a despicable task. Over time, he comes to understand that death is merciful. When he is at the hospital with all the people having prolonged, painful life by machinery, they say they all want to die. This really shocked me because until reading your book, I thought death was a curse for my grandfather. However, I now realize that because he was in pain and he would be until he died, it was more of a blessing. You would know: you got the concept from your dislodged kidney stone problem.

Also, there is a section in your book where a little girl writes to Death about why he had to take her mom (Dear Death, Why did you have to take my mother? I think you stink. Love, Rose). I felt the same way: I thought it was unfair that he had to die. It's hard to think about someone you really care about and know that they're dying; but when they're dead, you know that they're in a better place (at least for my granddad; others might argue the case).

You helped me discover that death is not a malevolent power; rather, it is a cycle that ensures we do not suffer pains forever, or have the excitement and joy of life run dry from boredom. I've come to realize that death is necessary to the cycle of life. There must always be destruction before creation. You showed me that death lets people go to their afterlife, which will be happier, and makes way for more living things. In your book, Fate says, "Imagine the havoc if no one ever died!", meaning that if everyone was still alive, they would suffer and the world would over-populate. You helped me realize that death makes life special, in Fate's talk to Zane in the beginning of the book: "It is not the right to live, but the right to die, that is most important." This gave me comfort in knowing that my granddad is in a better state now than before he left this world.

Death is a very difficult topic to discuss and also to endure; we both know (for me, my granddad; for you, your cousin). However, not only did you help me cope with the loss of my grandfather, but your book has made me realize how precious life is. Thank you for having the courage to write this wonderful book (and Del Rey for publishing it instead of rejecting it because it's about death), and I hope this helps other people in the same way it helped both of us.

Ian Tindel