Hazel Hawke's death touched Australians, me included. She was one of those people who found her way into our hearts.
I read the obituaries section in the Sydney Morning Herald for personal and professional reasons. Personally, because I am old enough that people I know are sometimes featured. Professionally, because of my interest in Australian life and history.
I do not know most of the people I read about. I was trying to work out the other day the things that affected my responses to obituaries even when I did not know the people. Sometimes its the achievements, sometimes the variety in life, more often it's what I have come to think of as essential goodness. Their story made made me like them.
To make my point, consider this piece on Professor John Hogg. There is achievement, but there is also an essential niceness, a willingness to muck in and help. You can see this in their response to the Bali bombing. They were there. He worked in the hospital helping victims, she helped in the morgue identifying victims. You wonder about the vagaries of life that took him away from her and their family at such a young age.
Hazel Hawke was like that. She wasn't a perfect human being: from the obituary, she was sometimes insecure and unhappy, as we all are. But there was an essential goodness about her.
One can wonder about the basic unfairness of the Alzheimer's disease that took her away from he family. Life just is, as it was with John Hogg's cancer.
In the end, it's what we leave behind that counts: It's that that brings comfort to those who survive; it's that that marks a place in the shifting sands of history. My thoughts are with her family.