This has been a cruel summer: first Robin Cook and now Mo Mowlam, two political stars Labour could ill afford to lose. I spoke to Mo just a few weeks ago to tell her about the IRA statement. It was clear that she was ill, but she immediately understood the historic significance of the ending of the conflict and the commitment to democratic and peaceful means.
I told her that where Northern Ireland is today was largely down to the work she did while in opposition and in government, culminating in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. It was probably one of the last political conversations she would have had, and I am glad it was about good news from Northern Ireland and her fruitful legacy.
When she became secretary of state for Northern Ireland in 1997 she realised that if the peace process was to work, and if the political process was to work, both had to be inclusive, engaging republicans and loyalists in a way never achieved by her patrician Tory predecessors.
As a people's politician, with a unique ability to dissolve barriers between citizens and government, there was no one better equipped than Mo to bring people in.
She made it easier for nationalists and republicans to engage constructively with the British government. She was instrumental in forging positive relationships between the British and Irish governments, and with the US administration and Capitol Hill - relationships which have flourished ever since, and are now at their strongest.
When, in January 1998, she took the dramatic decision to go into the Maze Prison to talk to loyalist prisoners who had committed ugly murders, and to persuade them to back the then endangered peace process, she was risking her political career.
Her shrewd political judgement and great political courage were matched by her physical courage in combating serious illness while handling one of the most difficult briefs in government.
The details of her illness have been well documented but Mo refused to be defined by it. Despite constant tiredness, she refused to let it stand in the way of her drive and determination to help take Northern Ireland out of a poisonous and sterile past.
The way out of that past is to be found in the principles of the Good Friday Agreement. Negotiating it around a table in the unremarkable surroundings of Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont, were remarkable people who were not just political opponents but, in some cases, sworn enemies. Mo played a crucial part in getting them there.
She knew that the agreement was not an end in itself. She knew that of itself it would not guarantee stability, it would not guarantee peace, it would not guarantee reconciliation.
But she knew it would set Northern Ireland on the path to stability and reconciliation and encourage everyone, especially politicians, to move forward towards peace. Those of us who have followed Mo Mowlam as secretary of state for Northern Ireland owe her a great debt.
When she came to Northern Ireland in 1997 she hit the ground running - running and hugging. She reached parts of the population that most politicians simply never get near.
In a hugely male-dominated society, she encouraged women into politics. She became a tireless supporter of the integrated education movement in Northern Ireland. She brought Luciano Pavarotti and Elton John to the grounds of Parliament Buildings at Stormont for open-air concerts.
Her warmth, her informality, her earthy sense of humour brought a gale of fresh, if sometimes blue, air to Northern Ireland's suffocated politics.
People loved her for it.
Yet she knew more than anyone the huge difficulties that remained. If her legacy today means that bombings and killings are now isolated and fringe rather than daily and mainstream events, if there are now just a handful of flashpoints in the marching season, if there are more jobs and prosperity than ever before, if discrimination is being eradicated rather than tolerated, politics remains frustratingly suspended.
Many of the same problems of historic division that Mo grappled with still bedevil the job. But, because of her, they are less sharp and more soluble than they used to be.
While the immediate priority is to decommission arms and then verify over coming months the implementation of the IRA's promises, we will in parallel be tackling murderous loyalist feuds; initiating a Victims Commissioner; normalising policing and security; legislating to deal with "on the run" suspects; and, above all, seeking a political settlement for Mo's vision of inclusive, shared government.
As we try to achieve that vision - as I am confident we can - Mo's mischievous smile will light up our spirits.
Peter Hain is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland