‘See Angkor and die’
(This story, one of my favorites, was published 20 years ago today in the Phnom Penh Post)
Renée Grass died happy here in Cambodia a few days ago after travelling across the world to have her last dream come true.
The 83-year-old Belgian woman, frail from the passage of time, knew that she had entered the autumn of her life, several people who were on the tour to Angkor last weekend said. She travelled alone to Cambodia because her dying wish was to see the temples of Angkor.
“She told everybody ‘ I want to see Angkor before I die’ “, said Dr. Xavier Baranger, who was called to treat her after she collapsed and died on November 25 in Phnom Penh.
She arrived in the capital last week and was booked on a tour to visit Angkor over the weekend. Several other travellers and the tour guides suggested that perhaps the trip to Siem Riep and the difficult walk through the temple complex was too strenuous for her, ” but she refused their advice because she had this goal,” Dr. Baranger said.
Hours after she visited the temples, she became ill, and a special airplane from Aviation Sans Frontier evacuated her to Phnom Penh.
She died the next day in her room at the Hotel Cambodiana, with the doctor and hotel staff by her side.
” I’ve seen situations like this before, when old people have one last goal in life, and when they have achieved it, they pass away content,” said the doctor.
Madam Grass probably didn’t know that King Sihanouk completed shooting of his latest film “Voir Angkor Et Mourir” (See Angkor and Die) at the temple complex only months ago.
Renée Grass travelled widely up until her last days. Her passport was full of visas from Argentina to Italy in recent months. She told others on the tour that she had no children and was a widow.
” She told people ‘ If I die travelling, just cremate me where I am,” according to the doctor. Her body was cremated at Wat Lanka here in Phnom Penh on Monday.