‘I just want to die a dignified death’

2015-05-03 15:00

To finally give up hope goes against every human instinct. But Robin Stransham-Ford moved past that hope long ago.

By last Friday, when he spoke to City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, his only remaining hope was to die with dignity.

He could probably have done it himself – opening the valve on his morphine drip, shooting himself like his friend Mario Oriani-Ambrosini – but Stransham-Ford tried to keep himself alive long enough to hear the verdict.

His last fight was fought for others like him.

It’s small wonder his website bears the name “warrior” – because that’s what he was, said his son Berkeley (24). “He believed unshakably that a person should have control over how and when they die.”

Stransham was admitted as an advocate in 2001 and was a member of the Black Lawyers’ Association and Advocates for Transformation.

When he became bedridden, he lived with his former wife, Penelope, the mother of his 12-year-old daughter, Epiphany. Berkeley, Epiphany’s half-brother, was also on hand to help.

Penelope said Stransham-Ford’s crusade became their crusade.

Berkeley said: “For him, it’s about what comes after him. He wanted to make the most of his last years on earth. He’s already done an enormous number of things, but this is the pinnacle. He’s not asking for a mercy killing, but the right to make a decision about it himself.”

Epiphany begged her dad not to die like Oriani-Ambrosini.

“When Epiphany heard that Mario shot himself, she told Robin: ‘Daddy, you wouldn’t just do that without telling me. I want to be with you and hold your hand when you die.’

“My daughter made a death room for him. Against the wall are everyone’s handprints in paint. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi came last Thursday to visit and his hand is there in royal blue on the wall.”

It was Stransham-Ford’s special place during his final days, full of photos and mementoes of friends and family.

He planned his funeral in painstaking detail, his family said. “We have to-do lists for everything. Who must talk, the pallbearers, the coffin. We have diagrams of how the tombstone should look, the colour, font, everything.”

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March 29 2020