HOW I MAKE IT WORK...

FACED WITH THE PROSPECT OF DY­ING, THE UNIVERSITY LECTURER, 54, BE­GAN PLAN­NING A FUNERAL WITH A CATCH: SHE WANTED TO BE THERE. HERE SHE EX­PLAINS HOW A LIVING WAKE CAN BRING ABOUT CLOSURE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Dan­nielle Miller

Why Karen Men­zies went to her own wake.

Igot re­ally sick in March 2016. A month later, I was in hos­pi­tal – crit­i­cally ill, with an in­fec­tion in my lungs. The doc­tors de­cided to put me on high mul­ti­ple doses of very toxic an­tibi­otics. My sys­tem didn’t deal with this and it se­verely im­pacted my cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t move. I was in ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain. They fi­nally de­cided to stop all med­i­ca­tions. I was pretty much down for the count for about four months.

Dur­ing that time, as I lay in my hos­pi­tal bed crit­i­cally ill, I started re­al­is­ing my lung in­fec­tion and two chronic lung dis­eases were se­ri­ously im­pact­ing the qual­ity of my life. I started won­der­ing how much time I might have left. The idea of death and mor­tal­ity started float­ing around in my head and I thought, “What would it look like if I wasn’t here? What type of funeral would I have?”

I started think­ing I’d like The Big Chill- type send-off, with all my friends go­ing away to­gether for a few days. But I thought, “How sad it would be to miss this!” I de­cided to ask 13 of my clos­est friends to come away and do all the things I’d al­ways wanted to do, such as see hump­back whales, while I was still here. I don’t want any of my favourite peo­ple to have a wake with­out me.

You don’t al­ways get to see how much you mean to your friends, but when I texted them the in­vi­ta­tion, they re­sponded so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally: “I’m in, damn any costs. We will pay for what­ever you want to do.”

It was heal­ing to have a bit of a dis­trac­tion dur­ing the re­cu­per­a­tion pe­riod, too. I’d lie in bed, then mi­grate to the lounge and look up ac­com­mo­da­tion on the in­ter­net. It was great medicine and helped me get through that dark time of con­tem­plat­ing what it all meant to have my lungs so com­pro­mised.

When we were away in Her­vey Bay, a friend play­fully teased me: “I paid all this

money to at­tend a wake for you – and yet you’re still here!” There was a lot of laugh­ter. Dark hu­mour is so im­por­tant; it is some­times the only way you can cope.

There has, thank­fully, been a change in my health. And I’m ac­tu­ally do­ing bril­liantly now. But none of us ever re­ally know what’s around the cor­ner, do we? At least I know I’ve said the things I want to say to the peo­ple who mat­ter, and cre­ated an op­por­tu­nity for them to show me how much I am loved, too.

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