Liam Clarke is a much-missed member of our PMP family and Kathy continues to support us even as she deals with her own loss. Susan and I had the privilege of meeting them both in Belfast last year and were both impressed then by the courage and grace with which he approached his illness.
During his career, journalist Liam broke some of the biggest stories of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the face of death threats and legal battles.
Three years ago, he was diagnosed with PMP. ‘True North: Liam Clarke – A Matter of Life & Death’ sees film maker Aaron Black set out to follow Liam during this challenging time to uncover how he and others come to terms with the prospect of dying.
The film follows Liam and his wife Kathy in the weeks before his death in December 2015 and reveals that he was determined to face death with honesty and courage. He said; “When you’re young, you basically hear about people dying and you think – that’s for someone else, that’s in most of our minds. Kids often have fantasies about dying and everyone being sorry and apologising to them. They don’t realise the finality of it.
“As you get older, you do. It changes your perspective and is a very valuable thing to recognise. It’s pointless hiding from it. I wouldn’t pretend I wanted it to come quicker than it needs to but it’s pointless hiding from it or being in denial.”
This intimate and moving film reveals Liam’s dedication to the practice of Zen Buddism which he discovered at the age of 50 and follows Liam as he spends time with family members.
At the request of Liam’s wife, Kathy, the film also documents the days after Liam’s death; the private Zen ceremony as well as the public funeral and scattering of Liam’s ashes.
Aaron Black, producer and director says; “Liam knew a lot about the darker side of humanity as a journalist working through Northern Ireland’s worst period. However his Buddhist approach to life made him an interesting and surprising man. He was still writing front page stories when we started a film about how people deal with death, but it came as a terrible shock when I got the call from his wife Kathy that he had died. The film suddenly shifted focus on to Kathy and Liam’s family as they faced their most difficult time. What unfolded was unexpectedly life-affirming.”
The documentary will be on Monday, October 17th at 22:45 on BBC One Northern Ireland only and will be available to view on BBC iPlayer afterwards.