I every so often find it awe-inspiring just how exceptionally brave people can be when faced certain death. Each time I hear, or read, of someone going about their daily business in a matter-of-fact way, I ask myself how they do it. Why don’t they go to pieces? What got me thinking about this today was my reading of the Guardian obituary of the academic Siobhán Kilfeather, who died of cancer at the age of 49 on April the 7th. According to the writer Claire Wills, an academic colleague and friend, not long before she died, Killfeather said that one of the things “she was surprised to find herself regretting was that she might not get to find out what happened to Harry Potter”. Wills writes:
Such oblique and funny asides were characteristic of her. It was not so much about the waste of time reading the first six volumes, but her intense engagement with plot. Narrative was fundamental to her worldview. She was fascinated by the way that the formal requirements of plot and storyline both ground us in a particular past – for her a past rooted in Catholic Ireland – and at the same time create the tensions and possibilities for unknown futures.
It’s something of a testament to the resilience of the human spirit that she could at that time entertain not thoughts so seemingly frivolous but any thoughts other that of the self-pitying “why me?” variety.