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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 12:13 GMT
Why I will be at my own wake
Andy Fitchett
Raising a glass: "I want to say thank you"

When you are told you have just months to live what do you do? Andy Fitchett, 56, decided to organise his own wake and is hosting it.

I'm a lucky man and have had a lucky life. Many people don't get a chance to say goodbye to people when they die but I have.

Others never live a life as long and happy as mine when they pass away. Take a 12-year-old killed in a car crash, they don't get a chance to live their life or say goodbye.

When I was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer I was planning a new life in Majorca. I'd bought two bars and was getting everything ready.

No emotion

A week after returning to the UK from a trip over there my chest started hurting and I was rushed into hospital with a suspected heart attack.

After eight-days of tests they told me I had a tumour on my lung and the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in my neck. I had six months to live.

For days I was numb, I couldn't tell you what I felt because I felt no emotion at all. Then I realised I had two choices, I could sit in a corner and wait to die or I could get my life in order and enjoy what time I had left.

I can't imagine looking people in the eye knowing it is the last time I will see many of them.

My priority was my two grown-up daughters, they were devastated when I told them. Things were made harder by the fact my wife - their mother - died 10 years ago of liver failure.

I wanted to make it as easy for them as I could, so I've planned everything down to a list of people to call when I die and have paid for my funeral.

Sorting all my stuff out made me start to think about all the people who had come into my life and touched it. You meet loads of people, make lots of friends but sometimes you don't stay in touch, despite having the best of intentions.

I realised I wanted to thank them all for being part of my life and being my friend, that's why I decided to organise and go to my own wake. The next day I also want to ring up those who don't turn up and ask why, as a joke.

Strength

I do consider myself lucky and have had a hell of a life compared to some other people. My wake is not about mourning my loss, it is about celebrating that life. I have a chance to do that and others don't.

I don't see myself as brave, people die everyday - I am grateful for the time I have left and want to make the most of it
My wake is on 17 March, I have been given until May to live. It will be at Swindon Town Football Club. I have always been a supporter so it seemed a fitting place to hold it. I'm selling tickets and will give the money to charity.

There's a disco and a charity auction, but the rest of the evening will be off-the-cuff. I just want it to be a happy night.

I will stand up and say a few words during the evening and I know that's when the emotion will really kick in. I can't imagine looking people in the eye knowing it is the last time I will see many of them.

People's reaction to what I am doing has been superb. My daughters say they have taken strength from my attitude.

Someone I met at the football club the other day asked me if I was "the Andy". When I said yes he showed me his diary, in big letters he had written "inspirational man" under 17 March. He wanted eight tickets for the wake, which made me happy.

I find it all a bit baffling and don't understand what all the fuss is about. I don't see myself as brave, people die everyday. I am grateful for the time I have left and want to make the most of it. I just want to say thank you.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

I'm in the same position, dying of terminal cancer. I have the time to enjoy what I have left after a pretty lucky and enjoyable life. I'm planning my own funeral in the style I want and taking the opportunity to try and contact everyone to whom I feel grateful. Plenty of people have brightened my life and I'd like to thank all of them for making it better in one way or another. The ones who had the other effect aren't worth troubling over. Take the chance to enjoy the end as much as you've enjoyed the journey - if you can.
Daryl, Motherwell

You go for it! I hope if I'm ever in the same situation, I can be half as strong as you!
Katherine Martin, Cambridgeshire, England

Although everyone has to die one day, the way Andy is facing up and reacting to all this is a unique thing. I have got so much inspiration from his personality. Andy, God bless you..
Butt Tariq , Cardiff

Congratulations to Andy for turning what for many would have been a reason to hide away from the world into a reason to celebrate the life he has lived. I will be raising a glass in his honour come the 17th.
Matt, London

My brother and I had a party for my Dad when he was told he only had a few months left - it was my father's idea and we had a wonderful time with his friends and ours. So all the very best, Andy, for a wonderful day.
Anne McLintic Smith, Strong, Maine, USA

If only we all had the opportunity to put right things that are often left unsaid. The unresolved issues that are left behind when someone dies are the ones that cause feelings of grief and guilt. Good luck and best wishes to a truly wonderful man.
Ann Halewood, Stockton on Tees

We have too negative an attitude to death in this country. It should be a celebration of a life, just like you say. My father died earlier this year. Shortly before he passed away, he gave me the thumbs up and said, "I'm alright." He had peace of mind, knowing he had done some good in his life and touched a few people. How much happier we would all be just to have those simple things as our aim in life. I wish you a peaceful, dignified death. Just like my Dad had.
Grant Cullen, Norwich, UK

What a brilliant (and very brave) idea. When my husband died recently I remember looking around the room at everyone present and thinking 'If only he could have been here to see everyone' I found it really heartbreaking. Not everyone gets the chance to do this and I am full of admiration for Mr Fitchett. I hope he has a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Diane, Cumbria, UK

My mum died from cancer at the same age and she had a similar incredibly positive attitude towards the whole thing. I would like to say to Andy's daughters that they are very lucky to have the dad they do. He is giving them the best gift he possibly can, which is to help them come to terms with everything in a positive way
Dan, London

I've always thought it was such a shame to miss out on your own final party and hear what people really thought of you!
Julia Burnham , Richmond UK

As I walked home from my night shift this morning, I was thinking about the very thing, that if I were to be diagnosed with something terminal, I'd like to hold my own wake. I had thought about it after seeing and speaking to a patient overnight on the A and E department where I work. I have already written down my own wishes in the event of my death, despite being in my twenties, as in my job I see too many people, of all ages, die suddenly. Good on you Andy, you have a fantastic attitude, and I hope you have a fantastic evening, and a very peaceful time afterwards.
Becky, Yorkshire, England

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