After 48 years of a "truly successful and rewarding marriage" Aucklander Phil Aish felt he had to do something to honour his wife Janice when she died of cancer.
On Monday he led a convoy of tractors into Whangarei on the NZ Tractor Trek he started as a fundraiser for Hospice and to honour Janice.
The Tractor Trek is on a 2600km trip from Bluff to Cape Reinga over 26 days and is due to finish at the Cape on Friday. All money raised from the trek will go to regional hospices. There are four hospices in Northland - North Haven Hospice in Whangarei, Far North Community Hospice in Kaitaia, Hospice Mid-Northland in Kerikeri and Hospice Kaipara in Dargaville.
Mr Aish said Janice spent her final days in a hospice and they were determined to do something to help the organisation nationally. He said after her initial diagnoses she turned down further medical intervention and against all medical predictions she lived for a full, symptom-free and happy 12 months.
"But when the inevitable monster that was eating away at her body reared its ugly head again, it was with unremitting aggression. Although I was prepared to do whatever was necessary for her, and indeed I had already relinquished all my other commitments, the fact remained that I was ill-equipped to give her all the care she needed," Mr Aish said.
"Within weeks we knew that the only way we would be able to cope, was for Janice to be placed under full care. By taking over the day to day (and often hour by hour) nursing duties and medical processes, this group of unbelievably caring and compassionate people left me free to simply be there - to remain sitting by my dying wife's side and hold her hand."
He said in her last days he and Janice discussed ways they could repay in some small measure the enormous debt of gratitude they owed to the hospice and its many volunteers.
"After listening to me thinking aloud about the practicalities of a fund-raising tractor trek, Janice simply said: 'Do it!' So in planning this trek I see the fulfilment of my promise to my darling wife and her legacy to those who cared for her."
- North Haven Hospice cared for 507 patients in 2015. The majority of these patients (76.4 per cent) had a cancer related illness, 79.4 per cent of the patients were non-Maori. To donate to the cause see www.tractortrek.org.nz