Jack Tame is a television and radio journalist and presenter.

Jack Tame: Here's to 50 good summers

A death cafe in Maine, America. Photo / Peter Lindquist
A death cafe in Maine, America. Photo / Peter Lindquist

If statistics are to be trusted and my prostate is regularly checked, I can reasonably hope she who rolls the dice will grant me another 50 summers.

Such good fortune is no sure thing. Already, friends my age have faced or are facing the Big C. And as an interviewee joked macabrely to me a few weeks ago, life is a terminal disease.

I don't dwell on death but the Christchurch earthquake was a bit of a turning point.
I had been fortunate. As a reporter I'd experienced tragedy and as a grandson I'd experienced the death of someone I loved. But I hadn't experienced unexpected or shocking death, or on the earthquake's scale.

I felt the randomness of Christchurch tweaked me a bit. I felt it sharpened me. It straightened my back.

For the first time I appreciated fickleness. That friends - young and fit - could be struck down by masonry on a midweek lunch break made me appreciate no number of summers could ever be guaranteed.

Easy to say now, perhaps, but I've found it soothing to confront death. I sought out and cherished Christopher Hitchens' essays on mortality, musings and observations penned in the days before he expired.

I was affected deeply by Atul Gawande's philosophy on modern medicine. He is concerned that in America, extending the life of dying patients is given priority over improving the quality of their remaining life. Must we always "battle" cancer? Isn't it better to have three good years, than five in pain?

These are challenging questions.

For humankind, surely no questions are more profound than those of life and death. The questions change as a life matures. It's easy to be bold about death at 30, but ask me when I have kids. Ask me in 50 summers.

At the very least, conversation can only be a good thing. Normalcy is important. Shirking a subject only stokes fear.

Do I fancy morning tea at a Death Cafe? I can think of a better excuse for a muffin. But we should all talk about death. For confronting the great equaliser is surely the best way to properly appreciate everything that comes before.

- Herald on Sunday

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Jack Tame is a television and radio journalist and presenter.

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