“Neither the boys nor I could acknowledge that she was dying,” Robert Wolders said later with admirable candor. “We perhaps made a mistake in not telling her how ill she was. I think that was very unfair to her, because Audrey was realistic about death as she was about life. When she began to sense that she was dying, she made us promise that we would let her go when it was time. We promised, but I don’t think we followed through.”
She wanted desperately to go home to Tolochenaz for Christmas, but doctors warned that a routine commercial flight could be disastrous in her frail condition; still fed intravenously, she now required a morphine pump to control the agonizing pain. When he heard the details, Givenchy arrenged for a private jet to collect Audrey, Sean, Rob, a nurse and the dogs and to bring them to Switzerland. They departed Los Angeles on December 19 and arived home next afternoon.
Still unable to take anything by mouth, Audrey remained in bed for most of the holiday. Forall that, she insisted it was the best Christmas in her life, for she was surrounded by undiluted love. “My one wish for Christmas would be peace,” she had said. “Peace especially for the children of the world. Only then will the water we provide quench their thirst, the food nourish their bodies, the medicine make them well - and only then will they live to play and learn, and their parents will live to love them.”
A few close friends were invited for the holiday, Christa Roth among them. “Frail though she was,” Christa recalled, “she took a basket and distributed little presents to everyone, personal mementos. She gave me a black and white Givenchy scarf.” Givenchy arrived, too, and Audrey asked Rob to take down a coat from a closet. “Take the blue one, Hubert,” she said in a barely audible voice, “because blue’s your color.” She took the coat, kissed it and held it out to her friend. “I hope you will keep this coat all your life.” On his flight back to Paris that evening, Hubert de Givenchy, wiping away tears, kept the coat around his shoulders.
The days at La Paisible were cold but sunny. Despite the intrusive paparazzi, buzzing in their helicopters above La Paisible like vultures, Audrey insisted on trying to walk a bit each day around her beloved gardens, point out to Sean or Rob or the housekeeper which plants or trees would require special care. Wrapped in a sweater and down coat, she sat and inhaled the winter air, raising her head toward the sunlight and whispering, “Mmmm - delicious.”
On Sunday, January 17, 1993, she made her last effort. “Oh”, she whispered, “I am just so tired.” Over the following two days, Audrey slept intermittently. As she slipped in and out of consciousness, she said several times, to whomever was at her bedside, “They are expecting me… the Amish people… the angels… they are waiting for me… working in the fields.” To Luca, she said, “I’m sorry, but I’m ready to go.”
“My life fas been so much more than a fairy tale,” Audrey had said a dozen years earlier. “I’ve had my share of difficult moments, but it’s as if there was always a light at the end of the tunnel.” On Wednesday, January 20, the minister who had officiated at Audrey’s marriage to Mel was summoned; later, Mel arrived, too, as did Andrea. Luca was there with Sean, and the house staff, and a nurse. After some quiet prayers, at Audrey’s bedside, everyone left the room.
(…) Inside La Paisible, all was quiet as Audrey’s sons, Robert Wolders and a few others tried valiantly to maintain their composure. They were about to go back upstairs, to bid a last farewell to Audrey as shee lay sleeping. Then Christa summoned them, and when they entered the room, everything was still and peaceful. All traces of suffering had vanished and there was, as everyone recalled, the same indelible smile on her lips that they had known so well over the years.
As Audrey had said, she was ready, and the others were waiting for her .