Caring for kaumātua before and after death

Planning and preparation for care following death

Some kaumātua like to be proactive and plan and prepare for their own end of life care and tangihanga. However, other kaumātua prefer to leave the planning and preparation in the capable hands of their whānau. In this section, Ivy-Lee reflects on the tikanga that she felt was informing her plans to care for her father.

In her Pae Herenga interview Ivy-Lee talked about how she wanted to care for her father:

I would like to be with Dad from as soon as he passes, to when he goes to the morgue. I’ll stay with him until he comes back. Only because, the stories that I’ve heard from... my colleagues that I worked with, and others through life [laughs], my very short life at that, not very old… But the taking of [pauses] parts of the body… without any consent [clears throat]. So, parts missing, without any consent, and not finding out until years later. And they’re going ‘Really?’ and I said ‘Yes, and this is the reason why we stay with our bodies.’


... if Dad were to pass, when he passes... just ensuring that he is ok through that whole process and taking him onto the marae. And I’ll leave the rest of the tikanga up to our kaumātua to... whatever they decide, then I will... adhere to [that guidance].

When asked by the interviewer whether her father had talked with the whānau about plans for his care when his time drew closer, Ivy-Lee replied:

No, he’s been very quiet. I don’t... I don’t think... I’ve tried to choose times... [Pauses] But I believe that he wants us to just take care of it... [quoting father] ‘Oh whatever it is, just do it, it’s not about me’. That’s what we get all the time, [quoting father] ‘It’s not about me'.

Ivy-Lee shared a former learning experience of hers around caring for tūpāpaku using traditional methods of preparing the body, which her father seemed quite happy with, but she felt she lacked experience to carry this out:

There was a time there where ah, I – I don’t know how I found myself in it, but it was a... waka tūpāpaku hui [gathering on making traditional caskets] that I went to ... and I took my daughter with me and ah, she didn’t think it was weird... or, or different. And I spoke to Dad about it, saying ‘Dad! This, you know… It’s a very traditional way of doing things. And… the females do that; we all prepare it [tūpāpaku] and the men prepare the waka [casket] and get that together. And we prepare your body, and, ya know, we fill your orifices’ [laughs]. I’m taking him through this and he’s like going ‘That’s not so bad!’ I said ‘Yeah Dad, but that was years ago we had that conversation’… I don’t feel that…I’ve connected well enough with that process to do it.

Ivy-Lee talked about how she thought of a coffin as being the final waka. She spoke about how she went with her father’s partner to choose his final waka after he had passed away:

[Name of father's partner] chose [Dad’s coffin] … She’s always wanted to spoil him. He says, ‘Oh don’t spoil me!’ but she… she spoilt him… So, she made sure that he had the best waka…

… because we, we lived the lifestyle of waka ama [outrigger canoeing] …and stuff like that, all the… sailing, traditional sailing with… sailing vessels and stuff like that. But I’ll always see that [coffin] as the last waka.

And so, we looked at [a selection of caskets], I said, ‘So Dad’… they had ah… I dunno, about 12 different coffins, ‘This is a rimu one…this is a…’ He [the undertaker] was going through them all and [my sister], myself and [name of father's partner] were there… ‘Which, which coffin would you like?’ And I said, ‘Dad, there’s a choice of so many waka here, your last waka!’ Because he’s into cars… And [name of father's partner] goes ‘I like that one.’ I go ‘That’s a flash one.’ She goes ‘Yes.’… it didn’t stop me from asking questions to the undertaker about… biodegradable… the, you know, ‘what’s happening with our whenua?’

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