The Sunday Magazine

"This Was Her Time" - Documentary

CBC producer Jaela Bernstien brings us the story of two sisters, different in almost every way, whose love for each other carried them through an agonizing experience. Kathy was in constant pain, and decided to die in Switzerland. Lesley agreed to stay by her side, right to the end.
A "selfie" of sisters Kathy Wardle and Lesley Forrester, taken in March at Kathy's home in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

The sisters didn't see each other often. They lived in different cities, both on their own - no spouses, no children - both fiercely independent women. Kathy Wardle was a retired real estate agent. She liked dogs, skiing, haute couture, cocktails and cigarettes. Lesley Forrester transcribed the stories of Iroquois elders. She loved a bargain, maintained a strict homeopathic regimen. The two couldn't have been more different. But twice a week, Lesley and her older sister Kathy spoke on the phone, caught up.

In January, during one of those phone chats, Kathy told Lesley that she wanted to die. And that she was going to book a trip to Switzerland, where she could end her life on her terms, legally. Kathy had been living in pain with debilitating osteoarthritis for 10 years. Multiple surgeries, countless pills did little to help. It was too much to bear. After that phone call, Lesley packed her bags and moved to Toronto. And for the next seven weeks, Kathy and Lesley spent almost every waking moment together.

Partway through, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of doctor-assisted suicide, and gave one year for new laws to be drafted. Too long a wait for Kathy. On a Tuesday, in March, in Zurich, Switzerland, Kathy Wardle ended her life in a clinic by drinking a lethal dose of barbiturates. She may be one of the last Canadian citizens to travel for medically-assisted suicide. And she had her sister by her side. 

Kathy and Lesley allowed CBC producer Jaela Bernstien to be with them as they made their preparations for the trip.


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