A moving poem

The Dom Post reports:

The Chilean Government has apologised to the family of a young woman killed in a head-on crash caused by a diplomat in Wellington 25 years ago.

Luis Felipe Lopez, who was drinking before the crash, claimed diplomatic immunity and was whisked out of New Zealand within days – leaving the family of Sacha Macfarlane struggling to cope with the 20-year-old’s death.

The apology was sparked by a poem spelling out the family’s anguish and an aborted attempt by her father, Kester Macfarlane, to meet Mr Lopez in Santiago last year.

The poem was sent to ’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and to its embassy in Wellington, which responded by offering to hold a memorial service. The apology will be officially conveyed at that service today at Old St Paul’s.

Mr Macfarlane, 67, said yesterday that the apology meant a lot to him and his surviving daughter, Nina, who witnessed the crash from a car behind her sister.

“The circumstances and the ensuing publicity surrounding her death caused us unbearable and unnecessary grief,” he said.

“The letter of apology is beautiful. It is a genuine apology, which lays the whole thing to rest as far as I am concerned. It was a little thing I needed to happen after all these years.”

Nice to see the Chilean Government help bring this sad saga to an end.

I’m republishing the poem below, as it really shows how awful the death of a loved one can be:

I was in Santiago the other day,
Mr Lopez, first time in my life,
and I was intending to look you up.
I’m not sure what I would have said
if I’d knocked on your door and found
you home. If a woman, your wife or
even a daughter, had called over
the balcony or the intercom ¿hola?
You see, Mr Lopez, I’m not sure
what I want from you any more.
The phone directory has many Lopez
as you of course would know –
they’re rare where I come from – but just three listed as Luis Felipe.
Perhaps you’re all related: elderly father,
your eldest son and you, Mr Lopez,
the diplomat. Are you still an embassy
man or did you switch your line
of work after the immunity wore off?
I’d been rehearsing our meeting
all these years but, somehow I got
to Chile and my heart wasn’t in it.
What was I going to say to you:
Hi, Mr Lopez, I’d like a word
about my daughter?
Would it hurt if I told you she was
twenty, tall and beautiful, unsure
as some striking people are,
and gifted, an artist with a promising
future. Paintings are all I have.
Hi, Mr Lopez, I could have said,
I’m the father of the girl you killed
when you drove dead-drunk
in a new car in a new country
on the wrong side of a road.
Would it hurt if I told you, last time
I saw her, I promised her oil paints
for Christmas and watched her small plane
until it was just a speck in a summer sky.
You! You crossed the centre line
a third time, saw the headlights and
swerved – not to the left, your side
of the road, which might have
saved her – but to the right,
Luis Felipe Lopez, to the right.
Hi, Mr Lopez, I could have said
in Santiago, please step outside,
I’m going to kill you.
They missed you at the inquest.
The coroner’s man couldn’t get
Sacha’s name right – he called her
‘Sacka’, as if she were a sack of nothing –
but he had yours down pat.
I have one daughter left alive.
On birthdays and death days
and in the early mornings, you are
not far from our thoughts, Luis –
can I call you that? I wonder if
the ‘car accident’, fool phrase,
wrecked your life as it did ours.
What price did you have to pay,
loyal servant of General Pinochet,
for slaughter in a foreign city?
When you hug your own daughter,
do you sometimes think of Sacha.
I sat on the bed in my hotel room
in your city ringed with mountains,
three likely numbers in my hand, and
I knew it was over. To tamp down
my bitterness, concentrate my sadness,
I tried to put myself in your shoes,
to imagine what it must be like
to be a killer. I tried but I cannot.
No, Luis Felipe Lopez,
I do not want to see your face.

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