Prime Minister Norman Kirk, M.P. for Sydenham, formerly M.P. for Lyttelton and Mayor of Kaiapoi , died on 31 August 1974.
Growing up in a staunchly Labour-ite household, he loomed large in my childhood – yes, he was a big man – and his death was a shock. He was the Mighty Totara, whose death should not have happened so early (he was only 51).
But childhood memories are notoriously unreliable – I remember a song where the words “Big Norm” seemed to occur with great frequency and affection ! – so what kind of man was he really, and what did he achieve ?
He grew progressively more unwell, and died in our Our Lady’s Home of Compassion hospital in Island Bay on Saturday 31 August 1974 of ‘congestive cardiac failure’ and ‘thromboembolic pulmonary heart disease’. He was 51. Kirk was survived by his wife and family. He had a state funeral, and it was attended by thousands of New Zealanders.
I awoke this morning to the news that Maya Angelou had died. Immediately, I felt a slight twinge of shame – her books, especially her poignantly titled autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, have been on my to-read mental shelves forever and a day.
Yet the first thoughts about her that I could summon were a mundane mix: I knew that Oprah was a big fan of hers and that she had featured in the TV series of Roots (only because I had recently caught snatches of it while channel-surfing late at night – if you are wondering, she played wise old Nyo Boto in the episodes set in Kunta Kinte’s village).
While listening to the news, I discovered that Angelou was also the author of the famous quote:
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.
But Maya Angelou was much more than that: she was a prolific writer, a poet, a civil rights activist, as well as a singer, a dancer, a director, and a producer whose life encompassed many varied experiences. Check out the following resources to learn more:
If you have already read some of Angelou’s books, please do share your thoughts and comments. Did she affect you as she appears to have affected these readers who commented on I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings?
Although the intergalactic space travel he predicted is not possible yet, many of his other fiction fantasies (such as satellite communication and men on the moon) have been realised. Read obituaries for Arthur C. Clarke at The Guardian and BBC.