This is the day Laura Ingalls Wilder died.

That fact strikes us with some sense of finality and loss, even though she’s been gone since 1957. Even though she’d long since passed by the time I read the Little House on the Prairie books, she seemed so alive to me. She breathed in the pages, as I followed her exploits — her joys and her hardships. It isn’t just her story — Laura (“Halfpint”) seems to come alive on the page. Vivid and telling.

She was, for me, real. Here presence filled up my imaginings — first as I listened to the book being read to me by my Dad, and then as I read the books again. I seemed to picture Laura, and she really is still one of those characters I’d enjoy meeting (whether she was young — running through the fields or forest — or older).

Then, too, there was the utter disappointment, with the discovery that Laura Ingalls Wilder would never write and publish another book. There may still be spinoffs, previously lost/undiscovered books or even the opportunity to read the same books again. Somehow, that’s not quite the same, though. As torturous as it is to wait impatiently for a new book to be released, it’s far worse to yearn for a book that will never exist — to imagine all those other stories that will never be told.

So, today is yet another day to remember and to say farewell — both for the author and also for the books that will never be.

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