Tommy Kapai: Hospice lifts a veil of unspoken fear

By Tommy Kapai

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One of my favourite all-time views of Tauranga Moana is the stunning view of the river and valley that opens its arms and your eyes as you cross the Wairoa River - a couple of clicks north of Bethlehem.

To the right and the left as you cross the bridge, you see a snapshot of why it is we love to live in this special place on the planet, and when you turn right off the bridge, heading north, there is another special place that I call "the launching pad".

I drive past Waipuna Hospice - or the launching pad - at least once a day, sometimes three or four times back and forth from Te Puna into town and I never tire of the visual treat that changes from season to season, like the colours on an artist's canvas as they capture the beauty for others to enjoy.

Like all hospices, it's a place where many of us stand a good chance of being launched into the next life and a place where recently a couple of my good mates were treated with the utmost dignity as they faced their final days.

It wasn't until I had the opportunity to spend some time at the launching pad that I really understood what goes on.

The veil of unspoken fear was lifted for me by the wonderful team who walk many of our whanau and friends through their final days.

Occasionally, I will drop in and read a story or two to the patients at the launching pad and at other times I have taken our tamariki down from the kohanga reo to sing some songs to the patients. Every time, I leave feeling a lot better and my joy chip is fully recharged. For our tamariki, who have grown up around the marae where death is all part of the natural process of life, they show no fear and almost immediately it shows on the faces of those being sung to in the form of a smile wider than the Wairoa River itself.

There is an aura that surrounds the launching pad that is almost angelic and you feel it as you walk in the garden of remembrance where loved ones can spend time reflecting on their friends and whanau who have or who are about to leave them forever - in this world, anyway.

It is fitting that the hospice is where it is on the tranquil banks of the Wairoa River, facing another launching pad on the other side - where the urupa (cemetery) of the Wairoa Marae sits quietly. How cool that all cultures are catered for in such a setting - with a launching pad on both sides of the river?

The Waipuna Hospice is getting a new wing that will help meet the growing demands of referrals that has increased 32 per cent over the past six years to an expected record of almost 800 patients this year.

The new wing of the hospice will contain clinic and medical rooms, as well as a family area and more space for counselling, bereavement support groups, massage therapy and education where we can take the tamariki to sing to the patients.

All hospices up and down the country have to find their own funding and Waipuna is no exception.

There is a dedicated team of fundraisers who have taken on this task and they deserve our support. You can stop and shop at their two hokohoko (second-hand) shops, one in Greerton and one in Fraser Cove, you can call in at the hospice and say hello with a couple of cakes for the awhi angels who look after the patients.

Or you can give them a special blessing or karakia as you pass over the Wairoa Bridge on your way in and out of town.

Or support TECT who have just donated $1.8 million towards the new wing of the hospice.

When I pay my power bill I take comfort in knowing I am putting a few bucks towards the launching pad where I may well take my final flight from the planet. It's a small price to pay.

broblack@xtra.co.nz

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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