Saying Good-bye to Grace


I have been waiting for the news to be announced before writing this entry.  It was confirmed by police that one of my long-time friendships has come to an end in this life.  The body found in Karitane was identified as my friend Grace Gardner.  The police contacted me last Monday to see if I knew anything of her whereabouts.  We had not spoken directly for some months.  I travelled with her regularly to support her at Khamzin Tribe’s haflas.  Then, as far as I can tell, she pulled out of that to start a new relationship.  We passed occasionally on the street, going in opposite directions to our workplaces.  There was never time to stop and talk.

As the week progressed a body was found at Karitane.  I heard through other sources that she was dead.  The final announcement was by the police on Saturday in the local paper.  Her death is unusual and the police are awaiting further tests.  I expect to hear that there will be a memorial service for her.  So ends her life.  I had hoped to meet up with her again.  This is not to be.

I first met Grace at a bible study camp years ago.  She was a convert to Christianity in a country town.  We met years later when we both joined the Otago Mediaeval Society.  By that stage we had both moved into new places in our lives.  I was becoming more broad church; she had left Christianity behind.  I don’t think she could reconcile it with her life and education.  While at university she was introduced into neo-paganism and Islam.  While I did not press on her spiritual life I think maintained a tolerant magical practice to the end.

She worked at the Anatomy Department.  Her life was adventurous.  She married briefly, and after they separated amicably she had partners.  When she could she was consciously created places of sanctuary.  While I’m not a social extrovert I remember attending gothic parties in a big flat on Queen Street with some fondness that she organized.  She was a coeliac and everyday was a blessing for her.

Then she left her belly dancing group and began a new relationship which took her out to winter in Karitane.  I was tolerant of these changes as I knew we would catch up with each other again.  Her life was her own affair.  Indeed her name wasn’t the first one I meet her by.  She valued her privacy.

This makes her death all the more startling.  It turns out we will not catch up with each other again.  I do not understand what happened.  She left a note and disappeared from a relationship.  It sounded too similar to a suicide of another friend of the Archives that took place earlier this year.  Grace was extremely sensitive to the cold.  I accused her once of being an exotherm and she did not deny it.  To disappear without taking anything with her was irregular.  This is not yet a closed case.  I will await further news, and also hope to join with others to honour her memory.

She followed this blog.  There is a good chance that this entry will still arrive in her inbox.  Sadly she will not reply.  Whatever aspect awaits to receive her across the other lands I hope will receive her with kindness.


A conversation we need to have: Euthanasia in New Zealand

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This was a mightily attended forum held by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues in the Colquhon Lecture Theatre in the Dunedin Public Hospital.  The theatre was packed nearly full.  I estimate at least 500 people.  As always, what follows is my notes:

What is at stake?  The arguments for euthanasia are based on compassion, dignity or autonomy, and secularism.  I didn’t write down the details of these arguments which were summarised from a thesis done under the Centre for Theology and Public Issues.  Instead I noted two questions.  Can we die with meaning?  To die pointlessly and painfully seems to me one of the most horrible fates to end a life.  My second thought was, Is this part of the triumph of the individual over the social contract?  There is no one answer.

Listening to Sean Davison speak I became concerned, Is euthanasia the end of life choice for people who have lived with no regrets.  He described the life of his mother as an ex-doctor, well travelled, well-loved, living in a beautiful home and garden with a view of the harbour from Broad Bay.  I can’t claim to enjoy a life like that.  It belongs to a tax bracket above mine.  The kind of person who came out to support him seemed to be representatives of the same kind of people.  I wondered if classicism is one of the elephants in the room in the discussion about euthanasia.

At the same time I did keep vigil with a dying aunt.  It marked out several long days and when she was awake I did not find her coherent.  If I was in the similar situation I would willingly consider the option to accept the pill to end my life.

The decision is made in the moment.  At the same time the decision made in the moment is not objective.  The person making the decision can make a mistake.  Human life has a value.  Putting down a life is a tragedy.

This will be a conscience vote for parliament.  The first time a euthanasia bill was put before parliament the vote was two to one against.  The most recent time a similar bill was put before parliament it was almost balanced.  Whether it passes this time is speculation.

The quality and funding for palliative care in New Zealand is not consistant, and it needs to be before such a bill can be passed by parliament.  Safeguards need to be ensured.  If euthanasia is provided for the terminally ill will it be provided eventually for the non-terminally ill, or for disabled dependents?  There are troubling questions that follow on passing such a law.

Euthanasia is not a crime in New Zealand.  Instead we have laws for taking a human life: homocide, manslaughter, and assisted suicide.

I always look forward to question time after a lecture.  It is like ice cream after a meal.  Sadly this time I felt disappointed.  The questions did not provide me with more insight.

Stuff has its own report on the debate, which I found selective in what it reports.  It just goes to show that you can’t believe everything in the news.  The Otago Daily Times has its report here.  The forum itself will  available as a podcast from the Centre for Theology and Public Issues website.

Anzac Day musings

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It’s Anzac Day.  I’m spending the day at home.  For those who attended dawn services and other services to honour Australia and New Zealand’s war dead then I hope that Father Anzac brings you lots of presents.  I did not attend a service for the day.  It feels like ancestor worship to me, to honour the fallen in battle, those who went out on life’s great adventure, to secure their place in empire, and came back changed men and women.  New Zealand was not born as a nation in those fields of battle.  I am ambivalent to that debt.

In the meantime I am waiting for the news report that will officially confirm the death of a friend in unusual circumstances at Karitane.  I expect to write on that at length in the next few days.

I’m interested to see that there have been a couple of hits looking for my Lamborough project.  I was keeping the details of that to myself at the moment.  I hope to spend some time today continuing my documentation on the city.  Leave a comment, or contact me, if you want to hear more on that project.

Sail on, Easy Rider

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I’m sorry to hear about the sinking of the Easy Rider in Foveaux Strait last week.  One of the pupils of my early years at school was a member of the Karetai family.  I think Michael King’s History of New Zealand lists them among the families  of the South Island’s Ngai Tahu iwi, although I can’t find the reference. 

 As a family they have become scattered around New Zealand, Australia and the world.  The news reports that they still return from where they are for the muttonbirding season.  I no longer have the taste for that rich fatty flesh that I had when I was younger.

These are people I could have grown up with and have encountered in Invercargill in my youth.  Perhaps time will make me more aware of such people.  To lose four members of a family to a boating accident, along with the rest of the boat’s passengers, is a tragedy for any family.  This news moves and saddens me.  We are lesser for it.

Epiphany 6

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It is sad to report that Mae Cairn’s body was found on a bay on the Miramar peninsula in Wellington harbour where she had drowned.  Her body had been found by an elderly couple on the beach on Friday, several days after she had disappeared.  They were suitably distressed to convince the staff at a nearby cafe to phone for help.  It appears that Mae had been unwell enough that she determined to take her own life.  I can only wish now that she is at peace.

It was a better occasion to watch the screening of episodes 3 and 4 of Hamish Keith’s The Big Picture covering the history of New Zealand art in the first half of the twentieth century, as art recorded the death of the Maori people (which proved to be greatly exaggerated) and the cultural wasteland that New Zealand became for two generations when New Zealand recoiled from federation with the Australian states.  There were oases in that wasteland.  I must look out a copy of this series.

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My cellphone nearly recovered from the rain; except for the fact it no longer has reception. Denied of its meaningful purpose I went and bought a new one today. (The old one went into the Vodaphone recycle bin.) Despite being bog-primative as banging rocks together my new phone has already set off my neophobia for new technology — it predicts my txt! the little bastard! Now I am going to have to read the manual! Bugger it!

On the sadder news front I arrived at work today and the archivist wasn’t in. Her mother has died and she has gone to Blenheim. I won’t see her for the rest of the week. It will be one burden lifted from her. It still leaves us to fight our way through the settlement of our new workspace.

Ultimate Game

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I know Ranka has posted this one to his account; and Charlie Stross also links to it on his blog. I refer to the goodbye salute to Gary Gygax on xkcd. I mentioned to friends today who got the joke.

The cartoon

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