Lecretia Seales' husband pays tribute to 'loveliest person I've ever met'
The shy but courageous woman behind a very public right-to-die case has been farewelled at a poignant funeral service in Wellington.
Laughter mixed with tears as friends and family recalled their special memories on Wednesday of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales, who died from a brain tumour on Friday, aged 42, only hours before the High Court in Wellington made public its full decision to deny her wish for a doctor to help her to die at a time of her choosing.
Her husband, Matt Vickers, told the near-capacity crowd of mourners at Old St Paul's in Thorndon that his wife had still been making plans for the rest of the year and beyond until only a couple of weeks ago, when her health began to deteriorate rapidly.
"She had lots to live for and was filled with positivity."
While thankful that she died quickly without much suffering, he said he was distraught that she had to suffer at all.
He felt numb and confused by the unexpectedly swift loss of the "loveliest, most gracious and kindest person I've ever met".
"My guess is she's probably the loveliest person you've probably met too. She truly was a special person," he told mourners.
He recounted fun past times, their overseas travel and enjoyment of fine dining, sparking laughter as he revealed her humour could be "surprisingly unsophisticated".
Some found her difficult to get to know because of her shy and reserved nature. "It's true she was guarded because she was so private, but once you got to know her, it was impossible not to fall in love with her.
"She was kind and giving and generous and utterly pure of heart. She was incapable of malice."
Vickers also shared their deep pain at being unable to have children, revealing that Seales was diagnosed with brain cancer around the same time they were considering using an egg donor overseas.
"She loved kids and would have been an extraordinary and loving mother. Her kids would have been beautiful," he said, his voice choking.
She was "breathtakingly beautiful", but also fearsomely intelligent and admired by some of New Zealand's top legal minds. "She knew all legislation had consequences for people and their lives."
Seales rose above her illness and it failed to dampen her love of life and generous spirit, he said.
Only three weeks ago, a close friend of hers was hospitalised with a stroke and, despite being in a wheelchair, Seales attempted to walk to the kitchen to start baking for her friend.
"She had to be physically restrained. The point being, no matter how severe or challenging or serious her own problems, she always put other people first.
"She was a gift to me, to her family, to her friends and to her community. I'll always love her. I will always miss her.
"There will never be another person quite like her. I love you, Lecretia Seales."
Her parents and sister also shared many fond memories with mourners, as did former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Professor John Burrows, two of her former colleagues and close friends.
Palmer, who worked with Seales for more than six years, said she was a shy person, so it must have been "a great ordeal" for her to reveal her private health battle in a bid to challenge the law. "We should salute her for that effort."
Despite her death, he predicted her case would change the law.
He also praised her impressive legal mind. "What a tragedy it is, not only for her family, but for New Zealand that her life was cut short when she was at the height of her considerable powers."
Celebrant Keith Newell ended the service with an apt quote: "Sometimes the unfinished make the most beautiful symphonies".
After the service, her body was to be taken to Tauranga for a private family service and burial.