Trish Hooper’s Last Words

KtB has had a spate of submissions regarding illness and death lately, and autumn has only just begun. In today’s piece, “Letting Gravity Win,” KtB editor Meera Subramanian reminds us that “we are all guilty of having lost the art of dying” and builds a case for the widespread reclaiming of this lost art.

To this end, I think we would do well to take a lesson from Trish Hooper.

When her granddaughter, Alexandra Blair, sent her a link to our recent “Remember That You Will Die” contest, Hooper was totally game. She had already educated many in her retirement community on the freedom of choice in end of life decision-making. She was an early member of the Hemlock Society and had worked closely with the hospice group, Compassionate Choices. Hooper talked often about death, and she had an entire bookshelf (four shelves tall) dedicated solely to books about death and “right-to-die” themes. She had writing experience, too. Hooper had just self-published her memoir, I’m 87, and You’re Not, and her letters-to-the-editor were so frequently published in so many newspapers that the San Francisco Chronicle devoted an article to her success in this tough-to-crack genre.

The submission we received from Trish Hooper was not a contest winner. It was a draft, really. But her granddaughter sent it to us because she thought that Trish would’ve wanted us to have it. Hooper had died “very unexpectedly,” just days before her 88th birthday, the granddaughter explained.

And so on the night of the contest winner readings at the Rubin Museum, we honored Trish Hooper by reading her posthumous submission in its entirety, which now you can hear.

Download [4:26, 2.0 MB]

When I first read her email, I mainly thought it was completely rad that Alexandra Blair sent us her grandmother’s work within 24 hours of her death—the celebration of a life rather than simple resignation and mourning. I imagined those two as having a really compelling relationship.

Once I read the piece, it occurred to me that we can learn a lot from Trish Hooper about the vocation of writing as well as art of dying. Here is a woman 87 years old who had just DIY-published a memoir. This wasn’t the first book she published, either, by the way.

Trish Hooper wasn’t finished with her work. Her end-of-life, however elderly she was, was not even, like, eligible for the Erik Erikson-style “integrity vs. despair” crisis of old age I learned about in Psych 101. I can’t imagine Trish Hooper simply looking back on her past in sadness or satisfaction.

This woman, who had thought so much about how to die, was Full Speed Ahead. She died with pages down and pages to go. We should all hope to do so well!

Trish Hooper while she and her granddaughter await the check at a restaurant. Is this a woman resigned to whatever the ticking minutes bring?

KtB editor Quince Mountain lives in the Great Northwoods and is currently at work on a chronicle of belated manhood and unlikely self-help. You can hear about his sexploits as a teenage cowboy for Christ here.