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Going out in Style
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Sat, 2008-08-09 00:43
No, I don't mean the kind of going out that I avoid, the kind that raises one's chances of meeting people; I mean one's very last going out — into the endless oblivion that is death.
Libertarianz stalwart and old friend Anna Woolf is dying of brain cancer. Her tumour was held in check briefly by chemotherapy and is now being blasted by radiation, but only in the hope of giving her a few extra weeks. When it was diagnosed, and the prognosis of "terminal" pronounced, she had not long been declared clear of cancer in other parts of her body, which she had battled with dogged determination and unfailing humour. On hearing the cruel, grim new news, I texted her saying, "Fuck that!" She responded immediately with a smiley face.
Not even humour can save her this time, but the quietly defiant enjoyment she is extracting from her last days is inspirational. She took me and Peter Cresswell to lunch at an upmarket restaurant on Auckland's North Shore when I was up there for Eye to Eye. Her treat, she insisted — she had cashed in her life insurance and was intent on making good use of it (I hasten to add that even though this was Auckland the restaurant didn't absorb all of it). She was getting ready to move into her new house — mission now accomplished — and aside from that was arranging her affairs so that no one would have to do anything after she was gone. She spoke gleefully of the things she wouldn't miss, and wistfully of the things she would, if she were able to. There was not a hint of anything maudlin or self-pitying, just an overwhelming sense of, "Bugger!"
Death is such an infernal impertinence.
You can read Anna's thoughts in her own words at http://ilt-awoolfie.blogspot.com/. You'll be struck, I'm sure, by her realism, and the fact that she has the courage of it — no temptation to succumb to mystical hocus-pocus or "positive thinking" shysters, but a stauncher-than-ever atheism and gritty determination to make the most of what remains. She speaks of the "weirdness" of saying goodbye to out-of-town visitors, knowing it's for the last time but acting as if everything were normal. I guess I was an instance of that, so let me say ... Anna, we knew that was our last face-to-face goodbye, but there'll be more words yet. There might even be some more irreverent text messages, directed at that infernal impertinence. For now, let me salute you on a life well lived and a death so bravely faced.
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