Duncan Garner shares his mid-life crisis

With his show 3D axed, his colleague Plunket announcing a shock departure, and general unease in the Mediaworks stable, Duncan realises he’s got a long life ahead and family comes first.

Sorry to be morbid, but I’ve been slightly obsessing about death lately. My own, specifically.

What a grim time the end of this year has become – Paris gunmen and terror attacks, then yet another American mass shooting this week.

Then there’s the threat posed by natural causes and illness.

The good news this week was that there’s now a “game-changing” drug to treat melanoma, which kills 300 New Zealanders every year.

But the bad news is that our government’s drug buying agency, Pharmac, has deemed the drug (Keytruda) a low priority.

This is the problem with Pharmac – they’re in a position to play god with people’s lives.

Yes, the agency must make decisions within a budget, but this stance is particularly devastating to families here who need access to that drug. It costs $300,000 for a full treatment. That counts most people out.

In Australia and Britain the drug is publicly funded. I don’t understand why Pharmac think they know better. It’s a matter of life and death, after all.

Then there’s Jonah Lomu’s death aged just 40. The public memorial this week was a superb celebration of his life, cut so short at age 40. His adorable boys are just 5 and 6. They have lost their Dad.

My boys are 5 and 7. My girls are 12 and 14.

I desperately don’t want to depart planet earth just yet and leave them behind. I love seeing them grow. I need them. They need me.

The only thing that terrifies me more than dying is leaving my family in the lurch.

Garner’s future should be just fine.  Unless he’s squandered all the salaries he’s been collecting over the years.  But yes, Radio New Zealand is a bit full up with media refugees looking for a soft pre-retirement landing, TVNZ aren’t hiring, and Mediaworks and job security are not two terms that go together right now.  He’s right to worry.  

My beautiful children of course, I’ve worked really hard for a long time – and I have a pile of debt (otherwise known as an Auckland mortgage). It’s like a mountain.

I have so much more that I want to do and it involves growing old with the wife and seeing my children grow into adults, having kids themselves and living well. I just want to be around for that. I don’t need material things, I just want them.

Just to exacerbate my mortal thoughts this week I received a very formal and cold letter from my insurance company telling me they were taking another $3 off me every month for my life cover premium.

Normally I’d take a cursory glance and hopefully file it somewhere sensible. But this time I lingered on the form, sat down and read every word.

If I died tomorrow my wife and kids would get $1.2 million. I’m definitely worth more dead than alive. Please don’t tell my wife this.

But here’s the bit that got me: I’m also insured for $212,000 if I suddenly get a serious illness. It means I can spend up large while I’m dying and maybe tick off some items on a bucket list I’ve never had to think about.

Naturally top of that list would be to fight hard and live longer and spend more time with family and friends.

In that situation no-one wants material things. They just want more time.

Money doesn’t buy or bring love. We need to be breathing for that. The truth is we don’t need much as humans because we already have too much.

I’ve just started to focus on life a bit more recently and on what’s important.

Health – not wealth – is everything. It’s about living for today, because tomorrow never knows what’s coming next.

Pretty standard realisation for someone who comes out the other end of a hard fought career and comes face to face with personal and professional mortality.   There is indeed more to life than what we seek during our 30s and 40s.

The scary part starts now.


– Duncan Garner, The Dominion Post

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