The mobility scooter became a political battlewagon – a blue, message-bearing, battery-powered chariot for change.
And the banner which fluttered from Esther Richard's scooter made her stand-point clear to anyone on the streets of Parkvale and Greerton: “End Of Life Choice, International Right to Choose Day.”
Sickness beneficiary Esther may not be very mobile, but she's a very vocal advocate for voluntary euthanasia and secretary for the Tauranga branch of the End-of-Life Group.
“Everyone has an opinion on euthanasia,” says Esther. “But unfortunately those opinions are often emotional rather than driven by good solid information and evidence. So the aim of Right to Choose Day is to educate and make people aware.”
When she's out and about on ‘the chariot' with Freddy – her little bichon shih tzu cross – she talks to a lot of people.
“I rarely come across anyone who is opposed to voluntary euthanasia.” That's anecdotal, but the campaigner says the polls aren't.
“When MP Simon Bridges surveyed his Tauranga constituents about 18 months ago, 74 per cent of them supported voluntary euthanasia. And I strongly suspect people have become even more enlightened since then.”
It seems ironic this champion of the right to die and champion of choice came back from the brink herself.
“Five years ago I was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer – they gave me just four or five months.” She now talks of providence and of miracles because, all this time later and after all this added life, the cancer is “asleep”. So shouldn't she be an advocate for the sanctity of life?
“I have always accepted that death is an inevitable event. That doesn't worry me. But we don't have to make people suffer before that happens.”
And had the end-of-life choice been available to her through her cancer fight, she firmly believes she would have enjoyed her time a lot more.
“I would have felt safer, happier, knowing I would not have to suffer. It would have taken some of the stress and concern away.”
She hoarded sleeping pills instead.
”But I would have had to take them without telling anyone to avoid prosecution. I would have been on my own and then some poor unsuspecting person would walk in and find me. That was a big, big concern for me and a needless one.”
And had there been end-of-life laws she would have had a celebration weekend. She would have invited all of her friends over to talk.
“They would have known what was going on, we would have had a singing party, played loud music and then said our goodbyes. I would have chosen a few people to sit with me while I did it.”
Esther is a vivacious and positives survivor. “I always said I would scare the cancer off with laughter.” She does have a good belly laugh, and it's well exercised. In 2015 a specialist looked at her MRI scan – “There was no big blob, just a tiny mark, scar tissue,” she says. “The tumour had disappeared.”
She didn't have a special diet or an explanation. “But I did have faith. And they said ‘well, He has delivered for you.” Or could it have had something to do with a discreet little butterfly tattooed on the inside of her wrist – a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, of triumph over an insidious disease?
But after her experience, why is she advocating right to die?
“Even though my cancer has gone, I still have a responsibility to find an end-of-life option for other people. I have been given another chance, but not everyone will be blessed the way I was.”
There's a message, a message for the politicians. “Put your conscience aside. Your electorate put you in parliament and you should represent them and their feelings on issues. You can't properly represent us by imposing your own conscience. Every MP should be polling their constituents and acting accordingly.”
“Self-determining adults should have every right to choose when their time is up,” she says.
ACT Party leader David Seymour got his voluntary euthanasia bill over the first hurdle – it's been drawn from the ballot. It would give people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying.
“Voluntary euthanasia is going to happen,” says an assured Esther. “There's a certain inevitability about it.”
There's a deep indentation on the left-hand side of Esther's skull. “My fontanelle,” she jokes. It's a reminder of the biopsy for her “sleeping” brain cancer. There's the wispy grey hair. “Thanks radiation. But it saves on shampoo and conditioner, no hair brush, no dye.” Yep, life is fabulous and wonderful. She didn't want to die. She wanted to live.
“But I know an ex-farmer who spent all of his days outdoors and active. Now he has MND, his mind is sharp but his body is closing down. He can't eat, talk or swallow. He shouldn't have to suffer if he chooses not to.”
Esther Richards has been given a second chance, but a lot of people don't.