I have just watched another Murdoch Mysteries, “The death of Dr Ogden”. I am not going to criticise this one as it has a very important message to tell.
In it, Dr Ogden’s father was terminally ill and he phoned his daughter, as he wanted her to end his life, through lethal injection, as he did not want to face the indignity and suffering that would face him.
I, too, was in that position. Both Liesel and I knew that she was dying and one time, when she was in my bedroom snuggling up to me, she asked me to do something for her. But, before she would tell me what it was, she made me promise that it was to be kept secret from all, especially Verity and Liesel’s family.
She did not want to suffer the indignity of what was to come. She knew that the brain would be so badly affected that it would kill her but, worse still for her, before she died, she would lose her dignity, which was very precious to her.
She said that when she was in the final stages of her life, she would be on a morphine machine and that when I felt the time was right, she wanted me to secretly turn up the machine and let her slip away painlessly.
I did not have to think very long and readily agreed. I knew that she would be at her home in South Africa and that I would be with her constantly; well, as much as I could.
Then I got the call from her sister in law, Mandy, who said that she had a massive stroke and I was to drop everything and to fly over; Franz would meet me at the airport in Johannesburg and take me to her.
Verity and I were due to fly out for Christmas and spend it with our extended family and then the plan was that the three of us would fly back together to the UK. As to whether Liesel was saving my feelings by arranging her round trip tickets, I do not know but I expect that she knew it was going to be a one way trip but she obviously could not time her death but clearly hoped that she would have her last Christmas with her family and especially Verity.
I managed to get a flight, just for myself, as Verity was till at school and term had not finished. The plan was to see how the land was lying and to then get my Dad to take Verity to the airport and she would fly out on her own, with the air hostesses looking after her and making a fuss of her. That was the plan.
But the flight was not leaving for another day and so I went back into my little office to work, to keep my mind off of things. I called the family in South Africa to tell them which flight I was on so that Franz would be there to pick me up.
To my absolute astonishment, Liesel answered. I told her that I was flying out that night but on my own, without Verity.
As soon as I said the words “without Verity”, I heard a shriek down the phone followed by sobbing and then “no, no, no”. I tried to explain but she was inconsolable, SHE WANTED HER VERITY THERE.
Mandy heard the shriek and came running in and grabbed the phone from Liesel and then asked me what was going on. I told her that Liesel had got upset because Verity was not flying out with me and she understood.
By roughly 6.30, the following morning, I was in Johannesburg and an hour later, I met up with Franz. He took me straight to their home but said little in the car; I really did not know what to say anyway.
It was breakfast time and I was ushered to the table and told that Liesel would be out in a minute. She appeared, helped by the maid who had looked after her for all of her life. I looked at Liesel and I could see instantly that she was in a complete daze; she was very bad.
There was not a great deal of talk at the table other than to ask me how my flight had been. There was complete silence from Liesel as she struggled to eat her breakfast. I think that it had been a wise move for me to come out on my own,as that would have been too much shock for a bubbly 9 year old.
There were two single beds in Liesel’s bedroom. I told the family that I wanted to sleep in her room and to be close to her, obviously with the thought of that pact in the back of my mind.
I spent every minute in that room and only left for cigarette or toilet breaks. I had all of my meals there too and the family understood that I wanted to be with my love, my soul mate.
The day after I arrived, Liesel was hitched up to a morphine machine and, from that time on, never left her bed again. She quickly lost the power of speech and was, by this time, nearly blind. But she still had her hearing, which, I understand, is the last of the main senses to go.
I started to worry about Verity and thought that she should be there. I telephoned her mother in the UK to arrange for Verity to fly out on her own, expecting her mother to be very understanding, given the circumstances.
However, she refused to let Verity fly out on her own and got very angry. I tried to reason with her but she point blank refused. She said the only way that I could get Verity to fly to SA was if I flew back and collected her, only to fly back again.
I was now in a real dilemma. I wanted to be at Liesel’s actual passing but I wanted her Verity to be there too. What the hell was I to do?
I sought advice from Maureen, Liesel’s mother and she said that I should stay, as I could not risk not being there at the end. She also said that Verity should remember her Liesy as she was and not what she had become; Liesel was very bad by this time and her breathing was starting to be laboured.
With very great reluctance, I acceded to Maureen’s suggestion.
I have to be really open now and this may upset some people. I have not talked or written about this before because it is so very hard to write as it brings back that time in South Africa and it will be hard to read too.
Liesel’s breathing was, by now, becoming very laboured and white stuff was coming out of her mouth and nose. This was not right and I decided that night, I would do what Liesel had asked of me. I could no longer see my Liesel like this and, if she had been older, I am sure that Verity would not have wanted it either.
My evening meal has brought in and the door closed. I could not eat much and felt sick. It was time. I had a knife in my hand that I could use to beef up the morphine and to end this, as you needed a special key to avoid “accidental” overdoses but the knife would suffice.
I just looked at the knife for what seemed like ages and then it came to me.
What happened if I was caught overdosing Liesel? Given her parents’ anger, I would be arrested and thrown in a jail in a foreign country. This was South Africa after all and I would have been given a very heavy sentence.
I did not think about myself but what I was thinking about was not seeing Verity. I would not see her grow up or progress in school or anything.
The I turned to Liesel and said I am sorry darling, I cannot do it and said that I could not do it for Verity’s sake . I was mortified but what could I do?
I had broken my solemn promise to my beloved Liesel.
Liesel started to get so bad that I could take no more of this. I confronted Maureen who, after I had said that she had asked me to end her life, completely freaked out and shouted at me. She was very religious and a Roman Catholic to boot. She could not believe that I wanted to do such a thing. She did not see it as me carrying out Liesel’s wishes; all she saw was that I was going to kill her daughter, even though she was close to death.
Within two hours, there was a nurse in the room, watching me like a hawk and watching anyone else who had the same idea.
When I used to smoke, I generally joined Cameron, Liesel’s cousin. He was very close to Liesel and could not bear to see her like this. At one point, he even suggested to end it by putting a pillow over her face. But, I kept my counsel and just said that it was not fair on Liesel.
More and more white stuff was coming out of Liesel’s mouth and nose and it was clearly nearly time. Everyone assembled by Liesel’s bedside, with Maureen and Franz, sitting on two chairs, watching their daughter’s last few hours or minutes. I could not believe that they could just sit there and watch.
A few hours later, the nurse said “It is time” and everyone started to say their goodbyes by kissing Liesel. I was the last one to kiss her and seconds afterwards, she was gone. It was 5.25am, South African time, at the break of dawn.
We either stood or sat in stunned silence. Franz and Maureen just did not move; they were just stunned and could not take in that they had lost their daughter, their eldest child at the age of 39.
Then, finally, people started to disperse and the nurse took out the morphine machine. I just sat on the floor, with my back to the wardrobe, just looking at her; I had no desire for a cigarette.
The funeral director took hours to arrive and until they did, I was mostly by her bedside, in total silence. At one point, Franz came into the room and sat on the floor beside me. I do not remember if we talked or not. Maybe he came in to give me comfort; Franz and I were very close and still are to some extent although I have not seen him for years but that is another story.
Finally, the funeral directors arrived. The men were asked to leave the room so that the ladies could dress Liesel. We were then asked to come back in and, by this time, she was in a sealed coffin. The men from the family, including myself, carried the coffin to the hearse and we were all assembled as we watched the hearse drive off.
Little of my true story can be verified. Maureen, even after all of these years, is still in mourning, as am I and she will refuse to talk about it; it was only Maureen who knew that there was a pact between Liesel and I.
Although, like Maureen, Franz tries to live his life as best he can, he will not want to talk about any part of Liesel’s final hour and it would be cruel to do so.
As to Verity’s mother’s involvement in refusing to let Verity fly on her own, knowing her as I do, she will just lie and say that there was no conversation between her and I but I am sure that she will say that I flew out to South Africa on my own, leaving her behind.
But, the whole point of this true story is this.
Verity knows how much I loved Liesel and that I would do anything for her; I even completely rebuilt my house to make it our home, not just mine.
I had every intention of carrying out my promise to Liesel but I broke my promise because I was worried that I would not see my Verity again. I have to live with that guilt and will do for the rest of my life.
What I did not do, I did for Verity, pure and simple.
IT WAS ALL FOR VERITY
This is true and I swear it to be so on my mother’s, Liesel’s and my daughter’s life.