Nikki Gemmell at the Library
An elderly woman is found dead by builders, in her favourite armchair, in front of the television. As the police officers knock on her daughter’s front door and inform her of her mother’s death, they take her inside and pull out their notebooks to record what the anguished daughter is saying. ‘Has Mum done something wrong?’ she asks, bewildered. ‘Have I?’
Elayn Gemmell killed herself secretly and suddenly, and it broke her family. Once a successful model photographed by Max Dupain and Laurence Le Guay, Elayn Gemmell felt herself to be a left-behind older woman, facing a future of uncertainty and fear, invisible without her beauty or independence, and dealing with chronic pain and an addiction to painkillers. Her relationship with her daughter Nikki – herself a busy working woman with four children – was complicated, at times fraught and she hated to ‘be a bother’.
Nikki Gemmell's latest book, After examines in painfully honest detail a situation facing many elderly and chronically ill people around the world. Not given the legal choice to do what they really want to do, these people are compelled to make decisions alone, leaving behind a devastating legal and emotional disaster zone. Was the decision an act of independence or the very opposite? Was it a desperate act driven by hopelessness and anger, or was her euthanasia a reasoned act of empowerment?
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