That's it, I'll rest now, Parekura Horomia told MP Shane Jones at the weekend.
Mr Jones, a close friend, was one of the last to visit Mr Horomia, who died at his home at Mangatuna, Tolaga Bay, yesterday surrounded by his whanau.
"It was a time for final gestures, clasped hands with karakia and a hongi, and then he said to me "Kaati, te whakataa ahau inaianei. [That's it, I'll rest now]."
Mr Horomia, a Labour MP and former Maori Affairs Minister, had struggled with his weight, was a chronic asthmatic and had an enlarged heart.
The Herald understands there were recent complications with his heart.
Not only was Mr Horomia well known in his own electorate, which stretches from the East Cape to Wellington, but every other iwi knew him intimately.
The 62-year-old could move among everyday men as well as Maori royalty. He was descended from Ngati Porou's Te Kani-a-Takirau, who famously refused the offer of becoming the Maori King in the 19th century.
"He was an icon," Mr Jones said. "For a huge man he covered more miles than an athlete - that's why he's so widely adored throughout the tribes, from Spirits Bay in the north to Bluff in the south. There's hardly a marae that he didn't visit."
While he might be remembered by some in the House during his time as minister (2002-08) as having a particular talent for indecipherable answers, Mr Jones said that was part of the theatre of the Parliament.
On marae he was a much clearer communicator. "His oratory had no time for filigree."
Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae described Mr Horomia as a warm-hearted, generous and respected man.
"Throughout his life, Parekura was a tireless worker for the people of the east coast and for Maoridom and was passionate about promoting community and employment development. The creation of Maori Television remains an enduring legacy of Parekura's public service."
He extended his sympathies to Mr Horomia's whanau, iwi, friends and colleagues.
Prime Minister John Key offered his condolences to Mr Horomia's family: "Parekura has been a stalwart of the East Coast community for decades. He has championed their causes and supported those in need.
"The Government had enormous respect for the tireless work Parekura did for Maori ... "
An emotional Tariana Turia, Maori Party co-leader, said she had known Mr Horomia for about 30 years.
He was a strong man who had supported her during her split from the Labour Party.
"He'd been unwell for a little while, and he just kept going because that's the kind of person he was. It was the people who always came first and no matter what, that was the kind of leader he was. He always gave 100 per cent of himself to the people."
A spokesman for King Tuheitia, Rahui Papa, said the Kingitanga had lost a dear friend who'd been coming to annual coronation commemorations for 39 years.
Labour leader David Shearer said he and his colleagues were heartbroken. "We have lost a man of immense mana, a man of conviction and of compassion. We celebrate his contribution to Aotearoa-NZ, and we mourn the loss of a great leader."
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark said Mr Horomia was one of the kindest people she had known.
"He put himself at the service of his people and New Zealand. He worked tirelessly as a minister and as a member of Parliament for one of New Zealand's largest electorates.
"For me, Parekura was a very good friend and colleague. He will be greatly missed by me."
Mr Horomia's body is expected at Hauiti Marae, Tolaga Bay, today. The funeral will take place on Friday.
A byelection in Ikaroa-Rawhiti is likely in about six weeks' time.