Unnecessary pain of fame through death

IF there is such a thing as a good death, my grandfather had it.

He slipped away peacefully in his own home last week with his wife of 62 years beside him.

That was the way they wanted it: just the two of them.

My grandfather had been in and out of hospital for the past few months.

His heart and lungs were failing.

When they sent him home the last time, they had sent him home to die.

He knew this and made the appropriate arrangements.

He gave instructions for the funeral and dictated his eulogy and notes on his obituary, which he meant to be published in The Sydney Morning Herald, to my aunt.

My grandfather had a good death.

He also had a good life.

It was enviably full.

His death was, in fact, uncharacteristically low-key.

I can't think about him without remembering those who are known more for their deaths than their lives.

Like Rocherlea woman Jessica Kupsch, who was bashed to death by a man who was supposed to love or at least respect her.

Jessica deserved the same death my grandfather had, the same long life, the same loving relationship.

She did not deserve to have her blood splattered on a hotel room mirror because she said something her boyfriend considered "smug".

It does not matter what she said.

Nothing would justify that.

Jessica was one of five people who died in violent circumstances in Launceston this year.

The court cases for the other four are still ongoing.

Tasmania has the second highest rate of homicide per capita in Australia, behind the Northern Territory.

There's no great conspiracy or crime syndicate behind this.

Drunken, violent stupidity was the cause most commonly cited by Tasmanian judges in their comments on passing sentence for murderers convicted this year.

Drunken outbursts taken too far by someone who never intended to kill, often against someone for whom they held no great animosity.

Some had never met their victim before.

Some didn't even realise they had killed.

What a waste.

What a tragedy.

Jessica's murderer didn't realise he had killed her.

He punched, kicked and stomped on her, then sat in the hotel room waiting for her to wake up.

In Launceston this week, a group of police, support workers and coronial officials met to discuss the need for a statewide review that would try to map out the early warning signs for homicide in domestic violence cases and, hopefully, prevent more deaths like Jessica's.

Tasmania has one of the country's highest rates of domestic violence.

One woman in Australia is murdered every week by a current or former partner.

You don't know their names.

Their faces only come to public attention as a grainy photograph splashed on the front page of the newspaper: WOMAN FOUND DEAD.

It's their murder they're known for, not their lives.

In a few years I won't remember how my grandfather died.

I'll remember discussing political scandals with him, and his stories from the war.

I'll remember his evil delight at watching my cat torment the dog, and the failed banana pizza experiment.

But I won't think about his death.

The Kupsch family will never forget how Jessica died.

And nor should we.

If we remember, maybe there will be fewer deaths next year.


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