Maurice Sendak's beautiful goodbye

Maurice Sendak, eight months before his death, did a lovely in-depth interview with NPR's Terry Gross. Looking back on his words today, they can only be called a valediction.

Maurice Sendak was awarded the coveted Caldecott Medal for best illustrated children's book for his "Where the Wild Things Are" in 1964. Sendak was also a seven-time Caldecott runner-up from 1954 to 1982. No other illustrator has ever been honored so many times.

When beloved children's books author Maurice Sendak spoke with NPR's Terry Gross in 2011, there was no way of knowing that this would be the last time that Sendak and the Fresh Air interviewer would chat.

But Sendak spoke with the authority – and beauty – of a man who had reached peace with himself and his life. "I have nothing now but praise for my life," the author of the seminal children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" told Gross.

In fact, his words were so beautiful and so touching that some admirers would later report that they listened in tears.  German illustrator Christoph Niemann was so moved that he created an illustrated version of the last five minutes of the interview.

Sendak, who died last May, would have celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday, a day that Google chose to mark by honoring Sendak's life's work in a Google Doodle

Sendak never hid the fact that he experienced much pain in his life. He had spoken in the past about how his parents, Holocaust survivors, visited much of their own fear and terror on him as he grew. And he once said in an earlier interview – while speaking of his years of therapy – "I know there are supposedly happy people in this world. I never believed it, but I take it for granted."

However, as Sendak's final interview with Gross made clear, the celebrated author found much peace in his final years.

Here are a few highlights from that final interview. (You can also hear the full interview here or enjoy the last five minutes accompanied by Niemann's illustrations and Schubert here.)

Here are some of Sendak's final words to Gross:

– "Somehow I'm finding out as I'm aging – I am in love with the world."

– "I don't know if I will do another book or not. It doesn't matter. I am a happy old man.

– "I have nothing but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop loving them. They leave me and I love them more."

– "There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready."

– "It is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music. You know, I don't think I'm rationalizing. I really don't. This is all inevitable and I have no control over it."

– "I wish you all good things. Live your life, live your life, live your life." 

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