Airdate: Living the End

SBS airs an emotional documentary that says death is not a light that goes out, but a light that turns on.

Next Tuesday SBS airs an emotional documentary from Cordell Jigsaw (Bondi Rescue, Recruits).

Living The End follows the very personal journeys of three chronically ill people as they travel towards death and the life-affirming discovery that death is not a light that goes out, but a light that turns on.

‘Death is not something our culture does well,’ says Associative Professor Richard Chye, Sacred Heart’s Director of Palliative Care. ‘We approach dying as if it is something that doesn’t happen very often.’

For Mark, Katie and Robert death is about to happen sooner rather than later.

When Mark Cherry turned 50 he received a diagnosis of lung cancer with metastasised tumours in the brain, liver and bones. The shock was indescribable.

He was a surfer who enjoyed a physically active lifestyle. And he was at the beginning of a love affair bigger than he had ever known with his one year old daughter, Scout. For Mark, even the possibility of dying will take time to sink in.

“I wish I could at least just die, or get better. Or at least know. That would be terrific,” said Mark.

Katie Muncie is just 25 years old when diagnosed with diffused systematic scleroderma. An auto-immune disease that is taking away the face she recognises and filling up her lungs with suffocating scar tissue. A graphic artist married with two small children, Katie seems wise far beyond her years. She is not afraid of death.

For Katie, knowing and accepting the possibility of death has given her life. She discovers a new found enthusiasm for life. To be at home with her kids, just being a wife and mother, gives her inner peace and happiness that is so profound she wouldn’t trade it, not even for her life.

“It has given me life in a way to acknowledge death is knocking. And the funny thing is, it’s knocking on everyone’s door, we just don’t know when,” said Katie.

Robert Lloyd suspects he has cancer before he is diagnosed. The 79 year old theatre set designer has been losing weight and energy. Cancer of the lung is a surprise but not a shock. Robert decides against any treatment to prolong his life. He is happy to let nature take its course. Every day will be a gift. A gift he has a duty to enjoy.

“I don’t want a memorial service. I want them to have a memorial dinner at my favourite Chinese restaurant. And that then is going to be hilarious. I just wish I could be there,” said Robert.

Through Mark, Katie and Robert’s stories of travelling towards death, Living the End is not only a moving meditation on death itself, but an affirmation of the intensity of life. Instead of being a light that goes out, Living the End reaffirms that death is a light that goes on, sharpening and illuminating everything it surrounds.

Living The End is part of SBS’s Australian Documentary Season, Secrets and Lives.

The captivating season is a snapshot of Australian life that is guaranteed not to be seen anywhere else on television. The compelling, at times provocative season includes six new documentaries taking viewers into a range of extraordinary worlds in contemporary Australia and, through the incredible characters that inhabit each documentary, explores themes that are inspiring and thought-provoking.

It airs Tuesday 25 January at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.

12 Responses

  1. hi, thank you for the documentary for those of us n this surreal waiting period, it is powerful, to hear others, further along the road, talk of the things we think and have no voice for.
    i have often thought the same thing as katie, we are only prepared for life, our culture is bland and disney like, it does not dialogue about the inevitable,
    and for those of us fortunate to have been given notice, it is a gift, to hear our quiet thoughts aired.
    i would very much like to hear how katie is.
    thank you thank you thank you for this intimate open doc, thank you for sharing,
    we are truly privileged,
    warm regards to the maker,

  2. David S,

    That line you quoted didn’t come from the documentary itself but was written by TV Tonight, so you might want to watch it first before passing judgment. Otherwise, your other points about how society deals with death were quite relatively sound.

  3. I certainly agree that death is not something our culture does well, but blatant nonsense like “death is not a light that goes out, but a light that turns on” doesn’t help anyone. It’s meaningless, it’s complete crap, as anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows very well.

    They’re gone and they’re never coming back, only your memories of them remain (until you in turn die too). Those are the facts, unpleasant, disturbing, but facts nonetheless and meaningless mumbo jumbo doesn’t help anyone. Sadly it seems this show is likely to be filled to bursting point with such tear-jerker emotionalism rather than anything that might actually help people facing death (which is all of us).

    Our desperate compulsive need to see the dying as enlightened and at peace with the world is a symptom of our problems facing the end of life rather than a victory over it.

  4. If it’s anything like last year’s Four Corners episode on palliative care, it’ll be worthy & informative television. I think everybody should be exposed to this. Very brave people who consented to be filmed in that state.

  5. ‘We approach dying as if it is something that doesn’t happen very often.’

    Yes, it doesn’t happen very often to each of us – only once in a lifetime.
    And it’s a very terrifying thing because most of us are not lucky enough to be killed instantly out of the blue with no suffering.
    After you’vre seen one or two of your friends or family dying a hideous miserable long drawn-out death, which we wouldn’t allow an animal to go through, there is real fear. As in Real fear!
    Only the knowledge that legal euthanasia was available would ease my fear.

  6. Have you seen it, yourself, David? I am both drawn and repelled by it – just too confronting. I know that’s the point, but tv as gravely sober messages can be just too much. Michael Cordell has done lots of great work in his career. Nice guy too.

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