Families mourning the loss of loved ones are grappling with stricter restrictions on funerals and tangihanga, preventing them from being present at any stage of the funeral process.
During last year’s level 4 lockdown, people in the same isolation bubble as the deceased person were allowed to go to the funeral home or urupā.
The late Ngāti Kahungunu kaumātua Des Ratima’s whānau has decided to keep his father’s body until the level 4 restrictions are lifted.
Whānau spokesman Bill Gray said they wanted to delay the service and give him the farewell he deserved.
“Our hands are tied, it is the government’s directive that we cannot do much and we have accepted it,” he said.
“The family decided to freeze Des for fourteen days. After fourteen days we will review him. But I guess that doesn’t stop us from using Zoom to remember those wonderful moments we spent with this honorable man.”
Storing tūpāpaku, or the deceased, is just one of the many ways families are dealing with the new restrictions.
It is also forbidden to see the tūpāpaku, dress loved ones, or bring the tūpāpaku home.
The Health Ministry said in a statement that the rules had been tightened due to the increased threat from the Delta variant.
For the Maori, the rule change is particularly significant. Tangihanga is a sacred cultural tradition, which often lasts for several days.
Gray said that Ratima whānau felt heartbroken to have to mourn his father’s death for Zoom.
“It is strange for Māoridom that one can use a telephone to express his emotions and say goodbye to someone who was so dear and close to us.”
Zoom hui to give whānau and friends of Des Ratima the opportunity to pay their respects has taken place over the last week.
Donna McLeod of Motueka stands in solidarity with them and with all those who cannot be with their loved ones.
The writer, poet and playwright has been through it before, having lost her father during last year’s level 4 lockdown.
“It was very difficult for us. My father has been with us for the last five years, he had dementia and we never expected him to pass away during the confinement and he did.
“We are mana whenua here and we are a big part of the marae, and even though my father was Pākehā, he was still part of that community, so no one could come and wait for us and manaaki and hug us.”
McLeod’s father was allowed to be home for a short period before being cremated.
Family and friends who lived nearby would stop by his house and perform karakia or pay tribute to him from the roadside.
Others who lived far away shared memories online or entered Mcleod’s home from their computer screens.
“There is nothing like being in a tangihanga and being with a whānau, but when we can no longer do that we have to think, how can we continue to offer all those things that awhi, that manaaki? That is the most difficult, using Facebook and using Zoom in, and I know it’s not the same, but this is where we’re headed. “
This year during Matariki, McLeod’s family and friends gathered at Te Uma, where the urupā is located, to remember his father and others who could not be properly mourned during last year’s confinement.
“We shouted the names of those who passed away and that was beautiful. We also just finished a show at Motueka called Unveiling where we celebrated the lives of five of our people who had passed away during that time that we never got to celebrate all of them.” together.
“In these idle times when we are not isolated, let’s celebrate. But when we can’t all be together, let’s find ways to be together.”
He said that his father’s parting was not perfect, but his whānau did the best he could.
She said that’s all anyone mourning their loved ones could do right now.
“For me and my brothers, I think that’s the main thing. We did the best we could at that time. And that’s what we have to remember for the Maori whānau and all of us really: that we did the best we could this time. “