The final farewell

The prompt source


Not Lemonade:  When life gives you lemons…

make something else.

Tell us about a time you used an object or

resolved a tricky situation in an unorthodox way.


I was working in a Maori Mental Health Team (I am not Maori).  One of my clients was dying and wanted me to try and find his son.  He admitted to not being a very nice partner or father.  But I guess that when you are dying you just want to see the people that mean the most to you.  The question being would they want to see him?

In doing research among the iwi (similar to a tribe, this is the largest social group in Maori culture, with whanau being the family) I discovered that his family had effectively banned/disowned him (it is not really that simple I am just trying to make it easier to understand).  This meant that I had limited options to do as he asked.

I should say that this man was driving me crazy with all his requests, they came in hard and fast.  It was quite hard to manage his care and the other 30 odd people on my list. However, to meet his physical health needs I had to drive him and often the other services wanted me there to “manage” him.  He could be abusive and disruptive when the mood struck him.  Over that time I got to know him and I cared enough to want him to see his son, if that is what his son wanted.

I was stuck with no conventional way to find his son and his iwi that I had contact with, would not help me.  I asked our Kaumatua (respected Maori elder) if there was anything he could do.  He asked me if the man deserved the chance to see his son.  I didn’t respond to that in the way he expected.  My reply was that the son deserved the chance to see his dad if that is what he wanted.

I probably broke a ton of cultural rules but the Kaumatua helped me by navigating them and standing between me and any irate iwi members.  It was an honour to me for him to do so.   The son did want to see his dad and they had some time together before he died. The son was aware that the iwi would not help him bury his dad and that he couldn’t cope on his own to do so.

My team sorted the whole thing.  We got the Minister and had a graveside burial where his son was able to meet some of his dad’s friends.  At their home, my team had erected the communal tent for the after funeral meal.  We sang a Maori hymn for his dad and helped throughout the funeral.

The son also asked us to bless his dad’s home so we did this with him.  It gave the son a chance to do many of the rituals that he needed to say goodbye and that his dad might not otherwise been able to receive with his ban status.

It was an unorthodox approach that worked out.  It could easily have not but I believe the son had a right to know his dad was dying, even if he did nothing with that knowledge.  I read that and it seems arrogant, that “I believed”.  When I was a nurse I often had to work with my gut instinct and considered if it was me in this situation what would I want.  I was guided by the Kaumatua and the cultural rules that he helped us to navigate but he was my client and I worked for him, in side and outside of culture.





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