Family, work and opera filled Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s final summer

WASHINGTON (AP) — She was seeing family. She was exercising. She was listening to opera. She was doing the work of the court. She even officiated at a wedding.

That’s how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent the weeks before her death Friday at 87. Those who had been in touch with Ginsburg or her staff recently said she seemed to be coping with treatment for cancer and also making plans for events months away. So the announcement of her death came as something of a surprise, even to some close friends.

Mary Hartnett, one of her two authorized biographers, visited Ginsburg in mid-August at her longtime home in the Watergate apartment complex next to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. She said Ginsburg was “plowing ahead” despite a cancer recurrence.

“She was trying very hard to treat this, and essentially her body just gave out,” Hartnett said.

Hartnett, who wore a mask and tested negative for the coronavirus before visiting, said the justice was continuing to do court work. She also exercised, working out on a treadmill or using a tape made by her longtime trainer, Bryant Johnson. In the evenings, she’d watch “Live at the Met” operas, Hartnett said.

Hartnett said she’d asked the justice whether there were any silver linings to her illness and to the coronavirus pandemic.

“She immediately lit up and said ‘Yes, I’ve had so much time with my family, and they have been wonderful,’” Hartnett said.

Ginsburg announced in mid-July that she was receiving chemotherapy treatments, the fifth time she had dealt with cancer since 1999.

“I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that,” Ginsburg said at the time.

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