Youth in Asia

By John Panneman

‘I fully support Youth in Asia’ is a noble statement but not one that you would utter on your sick bed while watching the 5 o’clock news with your carer within earshot. It’s a corny line but one that still gets me chuckling to myself if not those around me.  

Euthanasia of course is a serious topic and I believe in the right to choose to die with dignity once all other options have been explored. I realise this is a simplistic sentiment and life is much more complicated than that. However, as an atheist unencumbered by what others tell me to do and think, it is a stance that fits into my world view and I will hold onto it until life teaches me otherwise.

I’ve just turned 50 and congratulate myself on reaching such an esteemed age. Not that 50 is so esteemed these days, but it once was, and I consider myself lucky to get here. Vicky and I have been watching a wonderful program, BBCs British Isles, and last night’s episode was on the industrial revolution when the average lifespan of a London male was just 29 thanks to the smog. So 50 is very nice thank you.

Vicky and I spent about an hour this morning visiting her father Jack’s grave at Mollymook Cemetery located on prime real estate right on the foreshore at Mollymook Beach. A beautiful place that somehow feels wasted on the residents. It was a warm morning and it was nice to be out and about enjoying the sunshine, appreciating being alive at this moment in time and drawing breath.

Jack died nine years ago of pneumonia that set in from extreme complications of Mesothelioma, not a nice way to go. Euthanasia wasn’t an option or even a consideration I believe. It wasn’t discussed, not in the open anyway. Besides, Mesothelioma doesn’t give you much time to even contemplate that way out. In the early 1960s, Jack was unfortunate to have a job requiring him to bag asbestos, in a closed room, with no breathing or safety gear. A recipe for certain disaster and a shocking revelation into the way that workers were treated well into the late 20th Century.

We didn’t just stand around contemplating life without Jack, but we did wander around looking at other gravesites with a morbid curiosity as one does in cemeteries. This got me thinking, ‘What would my epitaph be?’ Standing over Jack’s grave I joked that his should have been ‘Watch where you’re standing!’ spoken with his strong Yorkshire accent. For me, the legendary Spike Milligan summed it up best ‘Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite.’  Irish for ‘I told you I was ill.’

Like most of us I think, I do often wonder how I’ll die. The jury is still out on that one and maybe I’ll never know. Life’s last surprise for us all I think. What I do know is that I don’t want to die at work… or on the toilet. Worse still, on the toilet at work!

Work has never been my life and I sure don’t want it to be my death. Making passionate love, digging in the veggie garden or even going quietly in my bed aged 80 or so seems more glamorous to me in my middle age somehow, as long as I have all my faculties and mobility up until then.

Otherwise it’s Youth in Asia for me.  But for now, I’m off to the toilet, wish me luck!

© 23 October 2010

2 Responses to Youth in Asia

  1. Tamara Hunter says:

    Great attitude to life, John – loved your musings. Maybe replace the toilet with a shovel – at least then if you should die at that time it’ll be whilst enjoying Mother Nature ;-). I hope that’s taken in the light-hearted manner in which it was written!

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