DEATH: DON’T LEAVE IT TO THE LAST MINUTE – Michael Lawless – RTÉ – Ireland

subtitled video | 41 min


81 Year old Gray Cahill emailed the Documentary On One, asking why don’t you make a documentary on how I am preparing for my death?
Wanting to know more, we sent our youngest documentary maker Michael Lawless to meet this former nun who left America for Ireland.

Gray is extremely healthy and well, while she hopes her demise is far away.
Gray doesn’t want the burden of her funeral to be left to her good friends but how do you plan your own funeral while still alive?
And will her body, be accepted for medical science, or not?

Produced by

Michael Lawless


5 thoughts on “DEATH: DON’T LEAVE IT TO THE LAST MINUTE – Michael Lawless – RTÉ – Ireland


    Hi all.
    I wanted to start the discussion with some questions and prompts to open up the discussion.
    Be both critical and constructive – looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

    The programme and its central protagonist, Gray, aim to break down taboos around death and preparing for death.
    What did you think of this as an idea and ambition?
    Did the programme achieve its aims?

    The programme makes use of scenes – around the grave, in the anatomy department, at the undertakers – to illustrate Gray’s quest to prepare for her own death – how well did these scenes work?

    What did you think of the presence of Michael, the producer, and his relationship with Gray – did he bring out the best in her as a character?

    How effectively did the programme deal with Gray’s sexuality and her reluctance to talk about past relationships?

    What did you think about the balance between narration and interviews – was the balance right for you?
    What did you think about the quality of the writing in the narration?

    1. Thank you Laurent, for starting the discussion – in fact you have so many questions, I think I can answer only a few 😉 ! Gray Cahill is a very vivid and charming character and I felt very much drawn into the story by the introduction – learning about this 81 year old lady planning her own funeral and the decision to send the youngest radio maker ( Michael Lawless) to visit her. This also created some sort of expectations . that I (as a listener ) would be involved in some sort of relationship between the old lady and the radiomaker. This meeting of different generations was something I could not experience in the documentary, because of the strong narration – the narration is quite broad and eloquent ( I think as an Austrian I cannot really judge the quality of writing) and it is also a bit neutral and maybe it simply tells too much: I missed the thoughts and replies and the personality of the young reporter . There could have been more tension between Michael Lawless’ expectations, worries and intentions and Gray’s attitude towards life.

  2. I really like the basic idea. It’s a bit of a surprise that I seldom have heard people openly sharing plans about their own death. Death should be just a natural thing, right? Such a program can remove some taboos. But in a way, if you tell a story down to earth, making all very normal, it also makes the story in this documentary very “normal”. At some points it makes me think whats the big dea here. But then I recognize the conflict within my self.

  3. Hi Michael, Claudia Gschweitl and me listened to your charming feature! Gray is a very vivid, humorous woman, loved to listen to her interesting story. We would have wished to hear more from you and your thoughts, to have a dialogue between the generations, could also have been funny. A comment to the sound: always in the background – that was not necessary, and too much.

  4. Hello to everyone.
    First of all, I would like to thank you, for this piece. It was pleasure to listened it. Few days ago I was listening one of my favourite psychologist talking about our fear to even think about our death. So it was kind of nice hear same but still another perspective of this topic. The documentary wasn’t trying to push me change my mind and just easily show me, there’s is nothing to be stressed about, because it is so natural. I think the documentary gave me some answers (for example what is happening with body post mortem in order to be used for science goals). Need to say, I had some expectations, some psychlogist will appear in this documentary and analyse roots of our fear of death, which could probably show neutral site of this taboo. Anyway after this documentary I felt peaceful and calm about this topic. Not so calm to immediately jump into writting my last will, but be aware, that death is end of everyone’s life journey.
    Thank you very much.

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