He was far from home, many kilometres away from his tribal lands. He had come to the big city for cancer treatments and to be closer to the few family members who lived close to our catchment area. The treatments had not worked despite everyone’s best efforts. His condition deteriorated at an increasing pace. The Oncologists thought he was dying, that he only had days left to live and they arranged for him to be transferred to the hospice for symptom control and likely end-of-life care.
We managed to calm down his physical pain and nausea with urgency. When he was more comfortable his appetite improved. Everything was going well, we started making arrangements for where he would go next. Along with his family, he had chosen a hospital-level care facility that would be easy for his out-of-town family to visit.
On the day of his planned transfer, without warning, he collapsed and died. Death inside a hospice is not an unusual event. For Maori folk, after death, the usual preference is for the body to be embalmed and then for it to lie in state at a family home for a few days. Then it will make its final journey to the mana whenua/tribal homeland for burial.
Our patient and his family were all from out of town. They did not have a place of their own they could use to host a small funeral. They asked if it would be okay for his embalmed body to return to hospice for them to hold a tangihana/funeral.
We discussed it as a team and said “Sure, let us know if we can help.”
His family were grateful to be able to farewell him together in their traditional way.
In all my years of working in hospice, there have been more than four weddings on-site, but this was the first funeral.