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Megan Hender Takes a Different Approach to Death

The unexpected death of her elderly friend Pat changed everything for lawyer Megan Hender. After a full and passionate life, Pat suffered a lingering death, which distressed Megan, ‘If anyone deserved to go quickly, Pat did.’ But before she died, Pat revealed she’d never experienced so much love, as in those last few weeks before she passed away.

A few months after Pat passed away, Megan’s mother died. ‘It was as if Pat’s death was a dress rehearsal,’ Megan reflects. ‘My mother was a fairly private person, and had it not been for Pat, Mum’s last days in hospital would probably have been a grim vigil with just the family around. But instead, we opened it up to others to come and visit Mum, and it was wonderful. There was a lot of hilarity in the middle of the tears, and even though the hospital staff said Mum didn’t know what was going on, I think Mum benefited from it. My heart’s never been as full.’

Now Megan’s attitudes to death have been transformed. ‘Funerals should be a celebration of a person’s life, not a dismal affair. One artist I heard about, who lost her husband, had friends paint the outside of his coffin. His wife painted the church ceiling on the inside of the coffin lid - the view he’d have in the coffin at his funeral.’ Her approach to life is quite different also. ‘My criterion about what’s worthwhile has shifted, because it’s no longer just about what is of value to me,’ says Megan. ‘When we don’t give out, we lose out - death is the last opportunity to get it right.’

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