Act of love: The life and death of Donna Mae Hill - The Globe and Mail

The morning of May 17, 2018, my mother ate her last meal in the breakfast room of the Passage, a hotel in downtown Basel, Switzerland. Mom had black coffee, a croissant and a piece of cheese. She lingered over a small chocolate truffle that I had picked out for her at 7 a.m. that day in a store in the old quarter of the city. My mother had always had a weakness for chocolate and I had a weakness for indulging her.

Then we waited for Ruedi Habegger to pick us up at the hotel and drive us to the designated apartment in nearby Liestal, Switzerland, where people go to die.

Mr. Habegger – an affable, middle-aged man who co-founded the Eternal Spirit Foundation, an organization which facilitates assisted deaths – offered my mother the use of a walker to get up a flight of stairs when we arrived.

“I still walk perfectly well,” she told him, although she held the railing carefully as she mounted the stairs. Five foot zero, hazel eyes, a white shock of hair and in practical black shoes, my mother climbed slowly but steadily.

Mom died that day. Her name was Donna Mae Hill, and she was 90 years old. She died by her own hand. I was present for her death, along with her 29-year-old granddaughter, my niece Malaika; we had travelled with her to Switzerland to comfort her in the act.