We were partners in crime, Helen and I. We worked together on so many campaigns – from the Hobbit campaign, to the Port of Auckland dispute, to Jobs that Count, to health and safety, to a video about ACC cuts that included a mate of a mate dressed in a lime green mankini.
She was brilliant and optimistic, and infuriating, and wonderful. She was a persistent activist who would happily joke about just about everything including herself, but most of all she was good.
Just plain good.
We called her the Princess. Hell, she called herself the Princess with a wry smile and a spark in her eye. The phone would ring and she’d say “I need you to do this”, and we bloody well would. Because if Helen needed something done you knew it was the right thing to do and you’d do it as best as you could. To say she led from the front would be an understatement.
She was one of the few people that I’ve never seen equivocate – she loved people and she knew what was right and she wouldn’t stop pursuing it. It’s why so many people loved her in return and were so so loyal to her.
And she pushed us. So many conversations with her would start with “but Helen, that’s impossible” and would end with “okay, but this is the last time”. Of course it never was. Indeed some of the things I’m most proud of achieving as an activist, scratch that – as a human being, came from her pushing me. And I know I’m not alone in this – she drove so many of us to change things, to make things better.
After she was diagnosed with cancer we were heartbroken. She came out for lunch and my four year old son decided he was in love with her – at his insistence they went out into the backyard to hunt for sticks and build “skyscrapers” out of them in his sandpit, she was in the middle of chemo but she was so engaged with him and him with her for hours. It was beautiful to watch. Even weakened she seemed unstoppable.
Now she has been stopped. She always had so much life in her it still doesn’t seem possible. Helen, you live on in all of the people you’ve taught to keep working to make things better, and to take our licks and keep on fighting for what’s right. To be good.
But mate, I’m going to miss you so much.