Coronation Street – Friday 18 October 2013 – 8.30pm
If we watched Friday’s first episode with difficulty as Roy struggled to accept Hayley’s death and her decision to end her own life, the second episode was heartbreaking.
As an astonished Roy asks why, Hayley explains how she wants to die with dignity at a time and place, and in the circumstances of her choosing. Roy cannot accept this, and his perceived failure to support her in her plan frustrates and upsets her.
Hayley explains how Roy’s support has given her the courage and the strength to refuse to let the cancer dictate her fate, and speaks of the importance of having the final choice, even if it’s the hardest one. When Roy hears she has been considering this as an option for some time, this knowledge colours his memories of Blackpool. Instead of living, as he saw it, she was focussing on her departure.
Hayley wants Roy to accept the decision and be happy for her because of the feelings of freedom and peace it brings, but he considers it selfish, and cannot understand how she expects him to live a lie. If she thinks it will relieve his own suffering, he tells her she is very much mistaken; “Your passing cannot be painless for me, no matter what form it takes”.
Roy recalls his own suicide attempt and brands her a hypocrite as she prevented him from going through with it. Hayley argues that this was different because he had everything to live for and she’s already dying. Roy acknowledges that in feeling he had no future of worth, his judgement was clouded, and he can see that now, but fears that Hayley’s judgement may be similarly distorted on seeing the grave change in Jane. She insists that it has nothing to do with anyone else, but she does fear that hallucinations will bring back unhappy memories from her past. While she doesn’t want her lucid moments to be minimal, Roy heartbreakingly says he’ll settle for those moments. Failing to reach any kind of agreement, Roy acknowledges, “We’ve disappointed one another”.
It is interesting that Roy meets David Platt in the park considering he has just lost everything, and Roy is about to. David describes how he had to have the last word, and by the time justice came, he didn’t actually want it any more. This acts as food for thought for Roy who returns home.
Together once again, Hayley apologises that her wish came out like it did, and describes her image of her last moments. It is unbearably poignant to hear her describe her desire for scented candles, soothing music and Roy reading to her, as she tells him “I want your voice to be the last thing that I hear.” As we undoubtedly wipe away tears, Roy tells her that he wants that too, and “would feel honoured”. He acknowledges why she wants things to be this way, but points out that the disease ebbs and flows, and that she will have good days and bad days. He fears that she might kill herself too soon. His love for her is painfully apparent as he tells her “I will read to you, feed you, bathe you, dance for you, I will give you everything that you need”, but it’s not enough for Hayley, as it excludes the one thing she wants. She leaves in frustration, and as Roy desperately follows her downstairs, her anger is unwavering. She reminds him how she has fought for her body, and Roy cries out, “Have I ever done anything but cherish it?” as Hayley leaves to stay with Fizz and Tyrone. It’s dreadful to see Roy left in a state of anxiety and desperation, clutching her coat, and we wonder how we will ever get through the next few months of viewing.
This was a tremendous episode which portrayed the complexities of end of life issues with all of the required consideration, respect, seriousness and sensitivity. The manner in which it represented the differing sides of the argument with heart and humanity had a profound effect, and together with powerful performances by David Neilson (Roy) and Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley), and excellent dialogue, is a credit to the programme.