Death – Coming Soon (but hopefully not too soon) by Emily Smart

I’m not usually maudlin, preferring a good giggle to being morose any day of the week. However, death has been on my mind a lot lately. Not my own; I am of course immortal, just ask my doctor about my high cholesterol! It appears I am surrounded by it, and apparently I’m at ‘that age’ where people I know are popping their clogs left, right and centre. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m being flippant about death, it’s not actually a funny thing, but there’s no point in having an ostrich approach to the subject. It’s coming to all us, we just don’t know when.

Death will be the death of me

So what has inspired this piece? Well I’d like to be able to say that it’s any one of the following reasons. Firstly, my children are beginning to question what happens when one dies. Always a tricky discussion. Not being of a religious persuasion I am loathe to play the heaven and hell game; after all, who wants to needlessly disappoint their kids? Secondly, my friend is a funeral director, and obviously the subject of death comes up quite a bit when asking how her day has been. Thirdly, one of my clients is a ‘specialist aged care’ provider, so I spend a good deal of my working day researching and writing about homes which cater for the last years and sometimes months of a person’s time on planet Earth. It’s sobering to work in an industry where you have to be careful photographing residents for advertising material in case they’re no longer with us by the time it hits the newspapers. And then we get to fourthly: Sensing Murder.

Who dunnit?

If you haven’t heard of Sensing Murder, it might be because the TV show is only on in tiny wee out of the way bottom of the universe New Zealand. The premise is that two mediums (of the spirit kind) are presented with a photograph (turned face down) of an unsolved murder case. The deceased contacts the mediums (I’m not sure via which medium) and provides all of their details and then describes their usually rather grisly end. The psychics find out clues to try and bring about a conviction or breakthrough evidence in the cases to get the police to reinvestigate. It is car crash television viewing at its very worst, and it’s bloody brilliant.

Sue Nicholson

Move over Adele, it’s Sue talking to the other side.

We (the audience) spend the first half of the programme being given the life story of the victims, and what allegedly happened to cause their demise. The psychics then tell us everything we already just found out, but without the aid of anything but their spirit helper. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up! After talking us through the dying moments of the victims’ lives, the mediums hop in a car, and provided with a map of the local area, they drive to where the murder happened. How do they do it? Last night they knew the victim’s name, birth date, all about his family life, what he did for a living and that he was murdered and didn’t commit suicide (as stated on his death certificate). It makes for compelling viewing. The psychics are great. Sue Nicholson has a broad Brummie accent, loads of Elizabeth Duke looking jewellery and amazing spiky red hair. Deb Webber, an Australian, is a little less scary, but both have a great screen presence, drawing you in at every stage and sounding completely credible.

I first started watching the programme when I arrived in New Zealand some nine years ago. At the time, I remember renaming it Sensing Bullshit, and yet I was hooked. I had to stop watching it while heavily pregnant because I was up and down to the loo all night and kept seeing dead people who had been in the programme. The mind can play awful tricks in the darkness of night time.

Senseless murder

Watching a programming like Sensing Murder only serves to pose more questions than it answers. How do these people do it? What talents do they have? Would it be great or awful to be able to contact the dead? The list goes on. Another vital question that springs to mind is: if they can identify a victim and pretty much tell you the size of their undercackers, then how come they never come up with the killer’s name? To my knowledge no crime has been solved by a psychic on this programme. If it had been, presumably psychics would all be working for murder squads, depleting the number of unsolved murders around the world.

What I did feel last night was an overwhelming sadness for the family of the young guy who the investigation focused on. To feel their desperation in wanting to get some closure on his death, needing answers that simply can’t be found and strangely hoping that their husband/father/son had not committed suicide, but had been murdered. It made me realise that whilst none of us know what’s around the corner, there’s no point in questioning and pontificating, it’s really better to get on with making the most of the life we do have.

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