I received a card earlier this month from the team at Rotorua Hospice. It arrived on the first anniversary of my sister Lesley's death.
Lesley had only used hospice support services in the last few weeks of her life. But she was always happier after their visit. I would hear her chatting away when shortly before their visit she had said she didn't want to see anyone that day. She told me she liked that they took time to sit, listen and talk to her. They never appeared to be in a hurry.
Lesley spent her last six months living with me. She couldn't manage on her own at home and only agreed to stay with me for the winter, she would go home in the summer when it was warm. I knew that was not going to happen.
The card from hospice "thinking of you" was a kind thought. I appreciated it. I've been "thinking of me" a lot too since Lesley died.
Lesley was only two years older than me so her death has provoked me to start thinking about my own mortality. The funerals I have attended this year are of people my own age or just a little older. I know death comes to us all and I do hope to go to heaven one day, just not yet please god.
So I decided to press the "pause button" this year. Take stock in other words. Why? Because life is short and we never know when our time is up. Was I living life well? My self-assessment left a lot to be desired.
It really does come down, in large measure, to lifestyle choices. "Here she goes" I hear you saying. "Tell us something we don't know." And that's just it. We do know, yet still don't bother to do anything to change the bad habits of a lifetime. Not prepared to put in the effort even when we know there will definitely be gains all around.
The changes have been a mix of big and small. I visit the gym usually five times a week now for a 50-minute workout. This sets me up for the day. I'm not as full-on as the other gym members but what I do suits me fine. I can't believe I actually look forward to my daily workout.
When asked if I would like to take part in Dry July, going without alcohol for the month, I thought why not. If I quit after a week, the sun would still come up the next day. But hey, try July, August, September, October and now November. How that happened I'll never know, I'm not easily parted from my drinks. But I have.
I haven't sworn off alcohol it's just that right now the desire has gone. I honestly wish this had happened 30 years ago. I know there are family members that would have wished that for me too.
Fruit and vegetables are now getting factored in daily although I do struggle with vegetables. For some reason I have always hated them.
And I am making every effort to get to bed before midnight, even if just minutes before.
But the biggest change has been making myself slow down. For years it often felt as if I was on a treadmill. Constantly on the go. I now know I wasn't enjoying life as much as I should have because of rushing about. Going full bore affects your physical, mental, and emotional health. And technology hasn't helped because it means we can now be reached at any time.
Lesley's death was the trigger for me to take a long hard look at myself. How I was living my life, where was I spending my time, what was making me happy, what was making me miserable. I realised that if I didn't take care of myself, eventually I wouldn't have anything to give to anyone else.
Now it's up to me. There's still more work to be done. It's not about what's happening around me but what's happening within me. I'm enjoying the moment – living in the now. I'm doing it for both of us sister dear.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua Lakes Council councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart political correctness.