Today’s blog is unlike any that I have done thus far in that it is a memorial to a good friend who I just found out this morning passed away last night: Maurice Sendak. Maurice was one-of-a-kind. He could be sweet, surly, considerate, cantankerous, open with his heart and at other times guarded and protecting his heart from any more pain. I first came to know Maurice while in the monastery which breeds and raises German Shepherds. Previous to our personal contact like everyone in my generation I had known and loved his illustrations, particularly Where The Wild Things Are. One evening right after supper the phone rang and since I was closest to it I picked it up. The person on the other end inquired about obtaining a dog since his latest one had just died. Pen in hand I asked his name so that the brother in charge of that area could return his call, and he replied, “Maurice Sendak.” I immediately blurted out, “THE Maurice Sendak?!” To which he replied, “Yes, THE!” And that was the start of our close friendship!
Maurice came to the monastery a number of times. While he was working on the book “Dear Mili” he asked me to pose for one of the illustrations of St. Joseph so I went to his room in my large and baggy church garment, sat sideways on the bed and posed with my hand held out (the final illustration shows the sun above my hand). When he was finished sketching he turned the pad around so that I could see it. It is a feeling not unlike bi-locating to see one’s self turned into a recognizably Sendakian drawing. While in the monastery I had developed a day lily breeding program and as a fond gesture to me “Dear Mili” has day lily blooms on various pages. Over the years Maurice wrote letters to me which I still have. I also possess two drafts that he was developing for “Very Far Away.”
Over the past two weeks the recurring thought kept coming that I should give Maurice a call. And now it’s too late. Early this morning I received an email from his private Secretary informing me of his passing, wanting me to know of it before I heard about it in the press or on TV. Maurice didn’t only create “The Wild Things”… he was the original Wild Thing… wild with his enthusiasm, wild with his generosity, wild with his love. To say that I will miss him is to state the obvious. More than just missing him however I am filled with gratitude to have experienced the constancy of his friendship. And to think that it began with the blurted question, “THE Maurice Sendak?!”