A TIME TO LIVE: 12 life disciples discuss living with death

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A TIME TO LIVE: 12 life disciples discuss living with death

May 21, 2017 - 20:44
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It is often said by many and not just the wise that there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes.

A Time To Live

By Andy Simon @AndySimon55

It is often said by many and not just the wise that there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes.

Regarding taxes? Yeah; most of us pay them, be it all grudgingly.  At least with taxes there is a small chance of you getting some rebate. Granted; it's rare but not impossible.

As for death? Well, that's different. There's no chance of any rebate there, no compromise, no special dispensation, no immunity from prosecution and no get-out-of-jail-free card.

You get the picture? When your number is up, it's up. And this undeniable fact which applies to all of us who are still living should at some point make us all ask the question . . .

What would you do if you only had say,six months left to live?

At the age of 57 I have to admit I do think about my own demise a little more than I did when in my twenties but not in a morbid, Oh My God I'm Gonna Croak It sort of way, but more perhaps like a Christmas turkey might feel, come the end of October.

You know what's coming, but you can't do a damn thing about it.

I could turn to the internet for tips on how to handle death but coming across websites like, "NotLongLeft.com", or "AlmostAtThe-End.org", or "AcceptJesusOrElse.net" would not I'm sure fill me with the comfort and joy I was hoping for?

Thankfully BBC2 came up with a better alternative. Instead of focusing on a time to die, why not focus on a time to live?

And this is precisely what 12 terminally ill people did in Sue Bourne's heartwarming documentary, "A Time To Live."

These twelve lovely souls ranging from their 20s to 70s, took me on a philosophical journey through their lives cut short by their various terminal illnesses. The illnesses range from breast and bone cancer to prostate cancer.

There's even two with brain tumours.

But it's not about the terminal conditions they suffer from, it's more about the attitudes to their conditions to their lives and how they are dealing with that to which some of us would call, a bad deal of life's cards.

Fi for example, cheerfully lives with stage four ovarian cancer. The 30-year-old calmly told the camera she used to care about what people thought of her and now, "I don’t give a f**k” she says.

Nigel (69) after he found out his brain tumour would kill him explained his friends have got what he called, “sympathy fatigue”, when they call him up every few months or so just to check he was still alive. How considerate of them. It amuses him greatly.

Annabel, after learning of her terminal diagnosis made a bucket list which included leaving her husband of 20 years.

Finally there is Anita (71) who found out she had motor neurone disease two weeks before her 70th birthday. She then sold her husband’s stamp and coin collection on ebay and then used the money raised to go travelling.

Anita later goes on to explain that when her condition deteriorates to the point where she is unable to move, she will not have sufficient funds to have 24-hour care nor does she relish the idea of moving in with her son, thus surrendering her independence.

Anita explains that she instead; intends to fly to Switzerland, to go to Dignitas, and then go do as she says, “Drink a drink, off I go, wonderful." However Anita is clearly saddened by the fact that she cannot end her life with dignity at home here in the UK.

She's not alone on that particular point.

I have given only four examples of how these twelve people deal with their terminal diagnosis and the heartwarming, courageous way they are coming to terms with their circumstances.

There are eight other examples to see.

This is why I recommend you watch this documentary while you still can as it's well worth watching. Yet again; TV attempts to break the taboos, pull away the veil of ignorance and shine new light on a subject way too few people talk about.

And remember as you watch; this documentary is not about dying, this documentary is about living.

Watching documentaries like A Time To Live, can put those unimportant petty differences, niggles, pet hates and every day worries we all seemingly drag or carry with us, into perspective.

Have to admit though; I would have liked to have seen a broader cross section of society as I felt typically, the people in this documentary appeared to be, well, rather well off?

I'm fairly certain that if you google for long enough you wil find people with lesser means and with equally heartbreaking terminal illnesses who through no fault of their own simply do not have the luxury or the resources to go globe trotting, or to have second homes in the countryside, nor indeed become inspired to spend what little time that is left to them painting stuff that doesn't even have the pretence of looking like art, or guzzling copious amounts of wine to say nothing of dumping their partner at the earliest opportunity.

Or did I get all that wrong?

Other than that; Sue Bournes documentary was great, it was heartwarming, and it shows an aspect of humanity which sadly for me only ever appears when times are at their worst.

Even after watching this intriguing documentary, I still couldn't say how I personally would go about dealing with a terminal illness. I can say however, that I am personally not afraid of death.

Not even a bit.

Death has never frightened me, nor has dying.

The manner of my death however is a concern. I personally would like to pop off peacefully in my bed after having spent a splendid day with my family, or after a great days fishing, or both!

Dying from a terminal illness would for me at least, take a courage I am not certain I could ever possess. But as Sue Bourne's heartwarming documentary clearly shows, even under the most unfortunate of circumstances, the human spirit can be an extremely brave, resourceful and courageous thing, indeed.

Never underestimate, the enduring spirit of humanity.

BBC2's moving and intriguing documentary, A Time To Live, is still available to watch on the BBC's iPlayer service.

Thanks for reading.