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Tangihanga, kawe mate, hura kōhatu

Lying in state

Following the kaumātua’s death, whānau pani may arrange for the tūpāpaku to spend a night at the older person’s home, or one of the family’s homes, surrounded by their whānau before traveling to their marae for the tangihanga. Whānau pani draw strength and comfort from being with the tūpāpaku. The tūpāpaku is viewed, spoken to, sung to, and touched as if the person was still alive. This reflects the spiritual belief that the wairua stays with the tūpāpaku until it is interred (buried) or cremated.

The tūpāpaku may also stay overnight at a non-ancestral marae near where the kaumātua lives, particularly if they are well known and have lived in the area for many years. This gives local people an opportunity to farewell the cherished kaumātua before they leave for their ancestral home, often some distance away. Every time the tūpāpaku is moved karakia are said for the spiritual, emotional and physical care and protection of the tūpāpaku and the whānau pani.

Jeff explained that everything concerning the tūpāpaku is important to whānau pani. Having access to them and being with them 24/7 is essential to caring for the loved person who has died and also the grieving family:

Yes, we had one issue and that was, she [Ripeka] passed away about half past ten, 11o’clock in the morning. Well they never picked her body up until about 2 - 3pm in the afternoon. So that sort of put pressure on us, you know; we wanted her for one day, her mother wanted her for one day, and the marae wanted her for one day. And, there was issues around time. It was getting her out of the hospital, down to the undertakers to get her body prepared, and I told them at the time, because I had only an hour or so to get someone up there to pick her up, and, and they says, ‘Oh, we’ll take her from here.’ I go, ‘No you’re not. I want to follow her to wherever she’s going to be, wherever her body’s going to be prepared for us, I want to follow that journey.’

He [Funeral Director] says, ‘Well it’s getting too late in the afternoon, we can let you follow her into [name of place],’ because that’s where she was, her body was [being] prepared; ‘but she might have to stay in, she’ll definitely have to stay in overnight.’ And that really upset me. I says, ‘Well, if that’s only, you know, that’s all I’ve got with her, we’re going to follow through, so it was two cars, it was me, [daughter], and the sister in-law followed. We wanted to keep that process of staying with her tūpāpaku right through the whole process. So that’s the only issue we had.

When Ripeka, Jeff’s wife, was taken home it was important that their whānau had time with her body and it was important that Ripeka’s mother could sleep next to her daughter one last time:

She [Ripeka’s mother] looked like she had, you know, she held it together. I think I saw her cry a couple of times. But one thing she insisted was that the whānau had their time with her when she was in the house, so what she decided, she wanted, we moved Ripeka into her bedroom just for that last night, for the last few hours so her Mum could sleep next to her, and that was her time with her. 

When Ripeka went into the whare tūpuna her two mothers were either side of her:

Both mums [were] either side. And what they did for my mum because she’s 83, which is something I’ve never seen there, they brought a lazy boy in for her [to the marae]. She didn’t need it, but she had trouble getting up [from] low [down]. So, they had a lazy-boy right next to her, so she sat in that right through [the tangihanga]… That was something new. I’ve never seen that on that marae before.

Whānau and colleagues who were unable to make it to Ripeka’s tangihanga were able to farewell her at her home before her tūpāpaku was taken back to her marae:

[Bringing her] up to her whare was to let the ones that couldn’t make it up to the tangi, especially her close colleagues, because they only found [out] on the day that she was sick. Emails went out when she passed away. I mean, we were flat out on the phone me and [daughter]. But they didn’t know. They knew there might have been something wrong with her, but… we had to get the message out there quick.

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