When she was a young girl, Tracey Corbin’s grandmother passed away.
It was an understandably confusing time for the seven-year-old from Peakhurst, NSW, so she looked around for someone to help her understand death.
As a child struggling with my Nan’s death, I wrote to PM Bob Hawke, to help my young mind understand why we die. His letter back to me is my most treasured childhood memory! #RIPBobHawke #votesoutforBOB pic.twitter.com/kqpEIYZKmq
— TraceyCorbinMatchett (@traceycm74) May 16, 2019
Now Tracey Corbin-Matchett, she described receiving Hawke’s personal reply as her most treasured childhood memory.
“The question you asked me about dying is very hard to answer,” Hawke wrote.
“I think most of us have different ideas about why we do eventually die.
“Some people die because of unfortunate accidents, sometimes because they become so ill that doctors are unable to help them to recover. Perhaps when we grow old our bodies get worn out, or certain parts break down, like parts in an old car.”
Side note: Here is Mia Freedman’s chat with Bob Hawke’s wife Blanche. Post continues after podcast.
He went on to offer young Corbin some advice:
“None of us can be sure of how long we will live. Because this is so, I think you should try not to think too much about dying, but think about all the nice things around you that make life so precious to us all.”
Hawke was a prolific letter writer. He regularly responded to children who expressed their concerns about everything from rubbish and recycling to nuclear war, and asked his team to apologise on his behalf if he could not personally write back.
Since news broke of his death, those who received letters from the former PM have dug them out of drawers and boxes to share on social media, showing just how much of an approachable leader Hawke was.