For His Own Good

Yesterday marked 4 years since the last performance of “For Their Own Good” at ‘Before I Die’ Festival in York. We were very proud of this show, which toured the UK, was part of the British Council Showcase in 2013, and won a Fringe First Award at Edinburgh. The pictures above show Harry trow and Claire Browne’s fantastic horse which we killed, bled, dismembered and skinned during the performance.

The inspiration for the show came largely from a conversation i’d had with my grandfather, Michael Lewis. He’d spent his career as a veterinary surgeon looking after animals ‘great and small’, but ended chiefly as an equine specialist (although he hated the term specialist).

Without going into too much detail about the show, as a group of devisers we all had reasons to meditate on death at the time, but Michael’s pragmatic approach to the death of other creatures prompted me to think about how he would wish to die.

Although i never directly asked him the question I couldn’t help thinking he’d appreciate the type of ‘mercy’ that he would always show a beast in pain, should the need arise.

Last year when Michael didn’t turn up for a lunch at my parents house my mum and uncle visited the next day to find him in the garden shed, ‘at rest’.

He’d recently seen two of his offspring, and his second wife die, in quick succession, with varying degrees of pain and suffering for them, and for those who were left behind. It must have been pretty difficult to bear, but he’d been stoic and good humoured as ever – the picture of 3 generations in this post is taken at my uncle’s wake.

Last week the tribunal for his death returned an open verdict, and the coroners report outlined an advanced cancer in his bladder that had hitherto been officially undiagnosed.

Did he know about the cancer? Who can tell. Was he in pain? Perhaps. Did he help himself ‘over the threshold?’ Quite possibly.

Here was a man who had always been keen to be master of his own destiny. Who, with compassion, intelligence and skill had put to an end the suffering of countless other creatures, for their own good.

If he did give himself a final gentle hand, I respect that whole heartedly, and still welcome change in our laws surrounding death and illness.

Either way, I salute you Michael Lewis.

Attached is the song from the very start of the show, with lyrics what i wrote.

Grandfather, Uncle and Nephew!


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Written by Jake Oldershaw

2 Responses to For His Own Good

  1. Jenny says:

    Thank you Jake xx

  2. Priscilla says:

    Uncle, cousin and cousin once removed. How great to be related xx