It’s a great privilege to have known Eileen, her warmth, her wit and her sharp mind undimmed by her failing health. In the last few years, when she might forget the word for something, she knew what she wanted to say about it.
Eileen was interested in everything and had an opinion on almost everything, but unlike many such people, her opinion was always worth hearing, and if you disagreed, you’d bettre be pretty sharp about explaining why. While she could be impatient with ignorance or stupidity or superstition, she kept her forgiveness of human frailty.
Eileen was a jackdaw for facts and information, and she left a mountain of books and papers — that should be properly archived. She was a devoted skeptic — if that’s not a contradiction — going to every meeting and conference she could, though someone had to drive her: it wasn’t a burden to be her driver, it was a pleasure to share her company and conversation. Eileen embodied the skeptical ideal, not condemning extraordinary claims in advance, just demanding evidence before she accepted them. She was equally committed to justice and human rights. The New Zealand Skeptics and the Council for Civil Liberties can be proud to have had her as a member.
Eileen, I’m sorry I didn’t visit you more. The last time I rang, you were too busy. That was you. And then I kept putting it off. That was me. I’m glad you died in your sleep and didn’t need to actually arrange euthanasia for yourself. I’m sure you would have been more angry about the subtefuges that would’ve been needed, than about any of the messy details.
Eileen, you loved life, and you had a good life, but we know you weren’t afraid of death. Euthanasia means “good death”, and yours was and remains a good death. And for that reason, in words accidentally topical, we all can, and should, have – Good…Grief.
It ain’t necessarily so, it ain’t necessarily so;
Our wisdom, though tribal, may not be reli’ble,
It ain’t necessarily so.
Hugh Young was kind enough to provide this eulogy for Eileen on behalf of the Skeptics at her funeral.