It started with the woman who ended detention of undocumented migrants.
‘She was a second generation migrant herself, 37, and had lived in Croydon, England, her whole life, which had made commuting to Yarl’s Wood in her early days as a grassroots activist easier’, read The Financial Times, in her obituary.
‘It was a tragic and unusual accident, where the car appeared to have been set alight intentionally. But the coroners concluded that it was not a suicide, for which her elderly mother was grateful, as a verdict of suicide would have nullified the life insurance policy, which had been purchased precisely a year before.’
The outpouring of grief in the days that followed from the commentariat referred, constantly, to the tragedy of the timing. Having finally closed the doors on the last remaining centre (closing ceremonies had proved a challenge to organise, for a number of reasons, as the events coordinator had learnt) only four days earlier, she had expired.
The funds, raised on a Kickstarter page (championed by the people that had been freed, plus their families and friends who awaited them just outside, tearfully awaiting the all but abandoned but much hoped for reunion), went into paying the architects, and interior decorators, to turn the detention centre into a women’s refuge.
But then went the woman (42, had initially been assigned male at birth) who had finally had equal rights for transgender and non-binary people enshrined into law and implemented, successfully, across all organisations, buildings, spaces and employers. A plaque was dedicated to her at the last remaining employer to prove themselves ‘friendly to all folk, whatever their presentation, or identity in both policy and practice’ – she had opened it (this one was easier for the events coordinator) just three days before her death, a boating trip gone wrong, that had ended in her drowning.
And then went the survivor of sexual assault (67, retired just outside of Ebbing, Missouri) who had finally come to the end of a court case against her rapist. The perpetrator had been convicted and sent to a secure re-education facility, something like what they called ‘prisons’ a few years back. It was the first successful conviction of a legal client of a legal sex worker, finally proving that the idea that ‘consent is not a contract’ had taken hold. There were few details about her death, just some vague and lurid speculations about how the case had added stress to her pre-existing mental health conditions. The less tasteful radio hosts made blunt remarks about how ‘in a way, it was almost lucky, as she’d spent her life savings paying for the lawyers, and in the meantime didn’t feel safe enough return to work, having been scarred by the experience’.
It barely made the news when the Bangladeshi climate change activists had passed. They were known best for the introduction of a worldwide tax on airlines, meat producers and fast fashion manufacturers paid straight to communities most at risk of the consequences of the rising sea level. Their water-logged bodies had been drowned for days before they were found.
Then, only a few weeks later, on the day of the inauguration of the first woman-identified, queer, black president of the United States of America, who had campaigned tirelessly and met with every person in every state, in person, without eating or sleeping, literally, dropped dead just before delivering her speech, live on air. As aides, and journalists, swarmed around the almost-president to check if she was breathing, if there was hope yet, a man, who had stepped back as there was already a flurry of activity going on, spotted the president-to-be’s speech.
It read, simply: ‘We are exhausted.’
Such tragic timing.