Author and social commentator Celia Lashlie has died after a short battle with cancer.
Her family confirmed this morning that she died last night at 11.40pm in Wellington. She was 61. . .
Lashlie started her career in social work within the prison service in 1985, becoming the first woman to work as an officer in a New Zealand male prison.
Her final role within Corrections was as manager of Christchurch Women’s Prison, a position she left in September 1999.
She was a Nelson manager for Specialist Education Services and was controversially sacked in 2001 for speaking out about a 5-year-old destined for prison, but was later vindicated after a government inquiry.
She then worked for a number of Nelson schools, including Nelson College, where she developed the Good Man project working with male students.
Her work with teenage boys had been extensive and her talks on raising teenage boys, as well as on social justice issues, had meant an extensive speaking circuit in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the United States, her family said.
She wrote the book He’ll be Okay: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men, based on her work in 2004 on the Good Man project.
That project focused on her research from discussions with pupils in 25 boys’ schools throughout the country.
At the time of her diagnosis, Lashlie was about to begin writing an updated edition of the book to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
She has also written two other books: The Journey to Prison: Who Goes and Why, and The Power of Mothers: Releasing Our Children.
She was the mother of two adult children and ‘Nana’ to five grandchildren.
Her family has asked for privacy but her daughter, Beks, has set up a Givealittle page on behalf of her friends and family who will continue Lashlie’s work, in accordance with Lashlie’s last wishes. . .
She left a final message on her website yesterday:
“The seductive nature of the modern world allows us as human beings to believe we are in charge. In today’s world we think we are in charge. Technological advances and intellectual knowledge we continue to acclaim, leaves us with the sense that we are in control and that there is enough time to achieve what it is we want to achieve.
We become complacent about the need to take care of ourselves… always something more to do. Some of this is driven by our desire to save the world, others driven by the desire we have to reach the many goals we have set ourselves – many of them superficial.
The simple reality is that we are not in charge and that moment of realisation comes to us when we learn of the fragility of the human spirit. For some, that lesson comes unexpectedly and hard.
Late last year I slowly became unwell. The stress of the lifestyle I was living, the demands I made of myself, the demands other people made of me and expected to meet became too great and as 2014 closed I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had spread to my liver. No treatment, no cure, only palliative care. I’d waited too long to look after myself and my body broke.
To say that it was and is a shock is a major understatement. and as I look at the amazing family and group of friends I’m surrounded with as I now travel a different journey warms my heart. At the same time, there are feelings of trepidation about what lies ahead.
I’m now focused on the moments of magic that are appearing in front of me: The laughter of my grandchildren; a smile of a friend attempting to walk this journey with me and the pure beauty and strength of my adult children as they battle their anger, grief and sadness at what is happening to their beloved mother.
It’s time to leave the work to others now.
My wish is that others will learn to stop before I did, to take into account the limitations of their physical bodies and to take the time to listen to the yearnings of their soul. It is in the taking care of ourselves we learn the ability to take care of others.
“When we walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen :
There will be something solid for you to stand on, or, you will be taught to fly.”
“Faith” by Patrick Overton – “The Leaning Tree”
She spoke at a fundraiser I attended in Wanaka a few years ago. The capacity crowd listened in rapt attention to her inspirational and challenging talk.
One of her messages was the importance of turning boys into good men, a very important one when too many boys have few, if any, good men in their lives to guide and provide positive role models for them.