how i make it work... KAREN MENZIES
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
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.