Avril Henry lived a fulfilling life, but as age took hold and her body failed, it was one she no longer believed was worth living. Why did the law stand in her way?

a story in The Guardian by by Katie Engelhart

In the late morning, on the day she planned to die, in April 2016, Avril Henry went to get the poison from the downstairs bathroom. She walked past the padded rocking chair where she sometimes sat for hours with her feet tilted above her head to ease the swelling in her ankles. She steadied herself against the countertop before reaching up to the top shelf and feeling around for the glass bottles that she had hidden there, behind the toilet cleaner and the baby powder.

“I got it imported illegally,” Avril had said of the drug supply. “It’s quite easy to do, but very risky.” She was at her home in Brampford Speke, a small village in south-west England with 300 residents, a pub called the Lazy Toad, a church, St Peter’s, and a parish council on which Avril had served several terms, earning a reputation as brilliant and steadfast, if sometimes needlessly adversarial.

In her 80s, Avril had a loose, unformed aesthetic: all soft beige sweaters, plastic clogs, walking aids. Often, dangly silver earrings. Sometimes, a dash of lipstick. By the time she planned to die, her white hair was so long that it nearly reached her waist. Things got stuck in it: some fluff, a twig from the garden. In the mornings, it took no small effort for Avril to pull the hair back from her face and impose a kind of order on it with elastics and hair grips. By late morning, wisps of it would have escaped their restraints and fallen down around her forehead.

Avril climbed upstairs slowly, as she always did: bent over and clinging to the banister – nearly crawling, so that if she fell, she wouldn’t fall far. It had always been Avril’s intention to die in her bath, reclining and fully clothed. She had written a detailed suicide note. “I am about to take my own life,” the letter read. “I am alone. The decision is wholly mine … This has been laboriously planned.”

Read the rest of this piece at The Guardian

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