Mortality on My Terms?

Mayflies review – Martin Compston reveals hidden depths in this drama of  death and betrayal | Television & radio | The Guardian

In a couple of months I will turn 59 and I’m only too aware that I’m well into the ‘second half’ of this one life I have been given. I remember doing retic work in my 40’s just made me fitter and stronger – now the heavy jobs hurt and I can feel the physical toll it is taking on my body every time I go hard. It’s been difficult coming to grips with declining physical capacity – along with the knowledge that from here on in, this may be as good as it ever gets…

I’m not being miserable – just grappling with a very undeniable reality. So watching Mayflies this evening really touched that nerve. In the words of Kasey Chambers ‘We’re all gonna die someday yeah!’ (In case Danelle forgets – this is the song I would like at some point in my funeral 🙂 )

Mayflies is the story of childhood friends who partied hard in the 80’s punk rock scene now all middle age and with one of them facing certain death in around 4 months from cancer. His decision to pursue voluntary assisted dying is the central focus of the story – that and the impact it has on those around.

The narrative shifts regularly between wild crazy teen years and the lives of men now well into their 40’s, one who has been a very successful writer and the other a teacher. It’s the teacher – Tully – who is facing his mortality and wanting to die on his own terms. They are the ‘same people as they were at 18 but different’ – like most of us as we mature.

The wrestle with ‘end of life’ issues is both confronting and quite beautiful as we see two lifelong friends struggling to know what is right – what is best – what is fair etc. It offers some insight into the curious thing of deep male friendship and how it works.

The short answer to ‘how to die’ is that there is no short / easy answer. Every avenue brings pain. Tully, however decides to chart his own course, the first step being marrying his long term partner and the second a trip to Switzerland to end it all.

Tully chooses ‘Noodles’ his long term best friend to be his ‘campaign manager’ as he calls it. ‘Don’t let me die like a prick’, Tully says to him. He wants to die on his own terms, but the reality he discovers is that we don’t get it quite so easy. The agony on the face of Tully’s wife tells a tale about VAD and the toll it may take on others who want to simply dredge every last glimmer of life possible from an impossible situation

The two part series straddles the two broad themes of male friendship and the ethics / complexities of voluntary assisted dying. Ok, it’s a fairly bleak storyline, but it cuts to the heart and then twists because these are real issues we are going to face in years ahead. It’s no ‘feelgood’ movie – but it does evoke huge emotion, simply because of the way relationships are portrayed in a no win scenario.

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