Heather Hastie died

February 4, 2023 • 11:45 am

It’s with tremendous sorrow that I report the death in New Zealand of my friend Heather Hastie, who passed away at 5:30 a.m. Friday New Zealand time after a bout with cancer. She was only 59 years old, and left this world peacefully, with her family by her side.

Heather appeared on this website often, for we were of like mind: rationalist, science loving, and thoroughly atheistic. Her website, Heather’s Homilies, was a haven of good sense, and I often called attention to her posts, which became increasingly rare over the last few years. On her “About Me” page she describes her medical woes, starting with a hockey injury when young, which led to spinal surgeries, and, ironically, to her creating her website as a way of connecting with the world when she was largely immobile.

We became friends the way Grania and I became friends: I noticed an exceptionally keen mind in the blogosphere who was also a liberal nonbeliever, and we began exchanging emails. And, as with Grania, that led to Skyping, which for several years took place once a week or so. We had long chats about everything: politics, New Zealand, our personal woes, food, and so on. I often asked her advice, particularly about feminism, for she was an ardent advocate for women’s rights, and sometimes I vetted my posts by showing them to her before I published them. Talking to her was always a pleasant break for me, and I think Heather enjoyed our interactions, too.  She eventually adopted a neighbor’s cat, who she named Reilly: a gray tabby who she spoiled rotten. Many times I’d insist on her putting the cat on video to say “hi”.

When I finally got to New Zealand in 2017, I of course visited Heather in her small town of Taumarunui on NZ’s North Island, and I spent several pleasant days in her company. Although it was difficult for her to get around, she insisted on showing me the area, including trips to the mountains, the famous glowworm caves, and wildlife parks. We had a great time and promised to see each other again on my next visit to New Zealand. It was, I hoped, to take place not long from now.

Sadly, that second meeting will never happen.  Again like Grania, Heather has departed way too young, leaving a big hole in my existence, and of course in that of her friends and family.  During the pandemic, both of us became more hermitic and the frequency of our calls waned, probably because it, like everything else, became a huge effort to arrange things. We last Skyped five months ago, and it was clear then that she was not doing great. She hadn’t written on her website, and said that she didn’t feel well.  The next I heard was that she was in the hospital with an undiagnosed malady. It was quickly diagnosed as stomach cancer, and deemed terminal.  They gave her at most three months to live, and that was about a month ago. She went into hospice care, and I got the sad news this morning.

Heather made no bones about her lack of religious belief, so although there will likely be a memorial service for her, and it may be livestreamed (stay tuned), she would not want any palaver about “going to a better place.” Where she stays will be in our memories, but that’s all we have, and it’s an inferior substitute for the woman herself.

Farewell, my friend, and Ceiling Cat speed to you. My only hope now is that, knowing how deeply she loved her cat Reilly, someone will be taking good care of it, for I know that that would be one of her greatest wishes.

If there is a streamed memorial service, I’ll let you know.

I would put up a picture of Heather, but I have only one, and she made me promise never to show it to anyone or put it on my site. (Like many of us, she didn’t like the way her photos looked.) So I will respect her wishes and not show it now, but I will always picture her sitting in her special orthopedic, mechanically-tilting easy chair, computer on her lap and the inevitable can of lemon soda by her side. I imagine she would have had an insightful take on Jacinda Ardern’s stepping down as the Kiwi Prime Minister, for we talked about Ardern often. But Heather was nearly gone when Ardern made her announcement.

All I can say is that New Zealand’s titer of insight, rationality, and sanity has palpably dropped in the last few days. My deep condolences to her friends and family.

56 thoughts on “Heather Hastie died

  1. I’m so sorry to hear this. Why do the good people die young? Rhetorical question, I know. My sincere condolences to Heather’s loved ones.

    1. ” — the good did first,
      and they whose hearts are dry as Summer dust
      burn to the socket. “.
      This may explain why Rupert Murdoch is still amongst us.

  2. That’s very sad news – condolences to Jerry and to Heather’s family and friends. And best wishes for a happy new home for Reilly.

  3. Indeed, Heather is well known – I was wondering when some new posts would be up – I’m frankly shocked at this news, my sincere condolences.

  4. Very sorry to hear this sad news. Heather was a great person with many health difficulties. I loved her comments and posts on her site. I contributed as well a few times in the hopes that she would continue posting the good articles on politics and other subjects. Thanks for introducing her to many of us on on WEIR

  5. I was terribly sad to hear the news late last night that Heather had died but my hope is that when she entered a place to care for her, that she was as pain free as she could be. I know that she was in a rural area and enjoyed watching the rabbits. When I last talked to her, through her sister, who read her messages, she asked me if I thought Trump would run again. I said yes, of course, he’s narcissist, he will for sure run again. Even when she was very ill, she was still thinking about geopolitics. She was a very smart person who struggled unfairly with chronic pain and it’s a great tragedy that we have lost her.

  6. I wish to add my condolences to you, and to her family and friends. She clearly touched the lives of many, including me, through her communications.

  7. Sorry to hear of this and condolences to her family and friends. I subscribed to her posts but they became few.

  8. Deepest condolences to Heather’s loved ones. I’m saddened to hear about her struggle with cancer. I had been wondering about her absence from your website, Jerry, and coincidentally, lately Grania was on my mind too.

  9. So sad to hear about Heather. I was always glad to see new posts on her site. On her birthday, December 10, 2021, I told her that she shared a birth date with my brother and one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson. She seemed pleased to hear that about Dickinson. Condolences to her family. She will be missed by many.

  10. Interesting Jerry, I’m feeling your loss.
    What else is there but intellectual connection?
    My wife and life companion, is slowly succumbing to aphasia (although her intellect still astounds me). It must be horrific being so trapped.

    Appreciate your personal views.

  11. I am very sorry to hear this. I followed Heather’s unfailingly thoughtful and interesting posts with pleasure, and, of course, noticed their declining frequency and eventual disappearance. She apparently handled her physical challenges with admirable humour and grit. Her loss seems especially personal for you. Commiserations.

  12. When interviewing Keanu Reeves on his show Stephen Colbert asked “What do you think happens to us when we die, Keanu Reeves?” Reeves exhaled, thought a moment, and then said “l know that those who love us will miss us.” End of interview.

    My condolences.

  13. Very sorry to hear of the loss of your dear friend, and condolences for her family. Heather was a regular on this site that I really liked, and then did also follow to her website. I have no doubt that her surviving cat will be looked after in proper style.

  14. I just got the news direct from her sister Fiona, and am gutted. My partner Barbara and I have visited New Zealand three times, and each time it was a treat to visit Heather. Our latest visit had been delayed by Covid, and we finally managed to see her in late November. We were shocked to see how ill she was, and it turned out that she was admitted to hospital the very next day. In spite of this, her insights into world politics were still sharp.

    We shall miss you, Heather. You added so much to our world.

  15. Heather was here when I signed on. As a kiwi I was chuffed and enjoyed her (like Grania) considered comments and insights. When you are forced by illness to ‘grab your hat and coat’ before the end of the show it is measurably sad.

  16. Damn, I am very sorry about that! I was just recently wondering why we did not hear from her on this site for some time. I wish I’d known her, but thanks to WEIT I got to know her a little, and am grateful for that.

    1. I am so so sorry to hear about this loss.
      I really liked what Heather had to say and was sorry she stopped writing.

  17. I am so so sorry to hear about this loss.
    I really like what Heather had to say. I was sorry she stopped writing and commenting on her post and WEIT.
    The few times I communicated with her we had a nice exchange.

  18. I had just recently wondered how she was going, not having seen a post for such a long time.
    She was fixture when I started here and I read a lot of what she said and had the occasional disagreement, which adults can do respectfully.
    I did gasp a little when I saw the news.
    She was a person I am glad I met in the world.
    My condolences.

  19. I am so sorry to hear about Heather. I always enjoyed your posts by her and read her blog off and on (not enough, it seems). My condolences to you and to her family. And may someone please give Reilly the love she would have.

  20. So sad to hear this.
    I’d noticed an absence of updates on “Heather’s Homilies”.
    The loss of such magnificent people is one of the (sadly, repetitive) proofs that if there is a “silent” doG, that doGess is a vicious reflection of humanity’s worse points.

    Vale, Heather.

  21. This is very sad and upsetting news, and I’m not sure what to say, but I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to those who knew Heather.

    In addition to her contributions here, I often read her own site. She always had insightful, compassionate and thoughtful things to say on any topic. The world needs more people like Heather, and it’s tragic and very sad that she has left us so early.

    I wish her family and friends all the best.

  22. Heather’s writing was wonderfully informed, clear and right. It led me to visit her, and we became friends. In the hospital I told her how knowing her will add joy to the rest of my life. It’s very sad that her brilliant mind and kind nature are gone, but Heather left an inspiring example.

  23. I had to search back to find Ms. Hastie’s posts and I can see why you miss her so much, Jerry.
    Sorry for the death of your friend.

  24. My condolences, old chap. Expressing appreciation is one of the main things to do “for someone” once they’ve died, and I think trying to leave up a web site is one of this era’s ways to maintain one’s presence and ideas for those who would still find them.

    1. Yes, back in 2014 Heather talked about starting her blog. Over the years she put a lot of time and energy into researching and writing. There is something of interest for everyone on Heather’s Homilies, including time-lapses and nature related posts. Definitely feel some of Heather’s personality from her blog. Everything from the name Heather’s Homilies, the Kiwi artwork with the books, blog posts. Plenty for people to read, Heather worked hard on her site over the years.

  25. 3 weeks ago one of my best friends , Carl Firmin, died unexpectedly died at age 45. We shared our atheism, which is a big thing in South Africa. All, from cleaners to professors, and patients, considered him the perfect gentlemaer cancer, she didn;t n. And a great professional.
    Heather’s Homilies were bit thin lately, something I missed. Her Homilies were great.
    Jerry, you must visit me when or if you go to South Africa (I’m sure it will be worth your while, I’m an avid cook and vino), no more Grania, no more Heather, it appears we must be hasty before we’re all gone. I loved Heather, but sadly never met her in person.

  26. Thanks for your words, Jerry. This is indeed sad news. Heather spoke often of her friendship with you and the great support and encouragement you provided to her. And she was so pleased that you were able to spend some time with her when you visited here in 2017.

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