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Respecting loved ones wishes through use of Manaaki Mats

A bereaved Gisborne whānau have shared their experience of laying a loved one to rest in a humble and respectful way through the use of Manaaki Mats.

“It was a process we went through as a whānau. All six generations were able to help.

“We were able to get the medical certificate, burial and registration of death finalised for our loved one Michael (Bosco) Robert Te Ua,” the Te Ua-Grace whānau said.

“We did not want our loved one embalmed. We wanted to respect his wishes, preserving the tikanga aspect of tangihanga.”

Manaaki Mats offer a cooling system which allows families to care for their loved one naturally.

The Te Ua-Grace whānau said they wanted to raise more awareness of the mats as an alternative option to having to go through the services of a funeral director which involved embalming.

“We were not made aware of Manaaki Mats before his death. Using the mats was a respectful and sensitive way to farewell our loved one.”

The whanau said they did not want Mr Te Ua to be embalmed, which would have involved his body being preserved through a three-day process. They had to find an alternative way.

They were introduced to the mats through whānau member Anita Daveron, a hospital healthcare assistant, who shared her knowledge about the mats and connected them with Annie Meredith, a deathcare advocate and Manaaki Mats educator.

“Using this resource really helped us through our grieving process.

“We want this resource to be made readily available to our community — to our whānau, hapū and iwi, so that everyone has a choice in farewelling our loved ones how we want, in a loving and caring way.

“There is a tikanga aspect to tangihanga as well. Using Manaaki Mats was a gentler way of farewelling our loved one. We were together as a whānau, especially the mokopuna, nieces and nephews. They all helped with changing the mats and taking care of our loved one.

“Everyone was a part of the tangihanga process.

“It is about being sensitive and respectful to our loved one's wishes, as well as each other.

“We were prepared for the tangihanga. Dad made his coffin through Tairāwhiti Coffin Club and the wonderful members there helped him.”

Ms Meredith said the deathcare process was not complicated.

“If the death is straightforward, there are only three things you must do legally — have a doctor's certificate confirming death, dispose of the body legally and register the death.

“If a whānau does those three things everything else is a choice. That's what this whānau did.

“The deceased had made his own coffin and they were able to get Manaaki Mats to preserve the body for three days.

“They used these ways to respect their loved one. People think the process is complicated — it's not. There is plenty of information online about what to do.”

In Tairāwhiti compassionate communities were coming together to take ownership of laying their loved one to rest, Ms Meredith said.

“If people know what to do, they may choose to organise things themselves.

“We are lucky to have professional funeral directors in our region. We are lucky to have their expertise but it's about knowing all your options and picking the one that fits best for your circumstances.”

Manaaki Mats are used in the neonatal ward at the hospital and Hospice Tairāwhiti. Each sheet costs $10 and the freezers can either be borrowed or bought.

“We are wanting to establish these resources in a lot of places like marae and other community areas.”

If you would like to know more about the mats, Ms Meredith runs community workshops or email threeseeds.info@gmail.com

■ If placing a death notice in The Gisborne Herald and you are not using the services of a funeral director, The Herald requests confirmation of the death such as showing a death certificate (the Medical Certificate Cause of Death).

TAKING OWNERSHIP: Manaaki Mats help bereaved whānau to farewell their deceased loved one with respect. Back, from left, Kyallie Grace, Crystal Gail, Annie Meredith, Shekina Edmonds and Merepeka Grace Te Ua. Front, from left, Heni Tuhura, Te Awa Haku Te Ua Edmonds, Amelia Grace, Kayleb Le'Afa-Grace and Jatneraeshyn Grace Le'Afa. Picture by Liam Clayton