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Time to reflect on priorities
14 March
Tariana Turia

The poignancy of loss has come home to many of us so vividly in the days since the Christchurch earthquake, and more recently in the aftermath of the dreadful tsunami that hit Japan. As we see families bereft of loved ones, we can't help but reflect on our own situations, and review our priorities that elusive balance in life.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I attended the funeral service of Kathleen Le Cren (Wilkie) at the end of last week. Aunty Miro, Kath's mum, had been very close to my Aunty Pae and Aunty Wai, and so my association with her had been life-long. But it was as much a shock to Kath as it was to me, that her life would end long before either of us was ready. In fact when I visited Kath at the hospice she showed a rare annoyance frustrated that she had at least another twenty years worth of projects yet to do.

Kath was someone who was immaculate in appearance and in personality. She played the piano beautifully, she sang and enjoyed picking up the trumpet when the occasion suited. She was confident, talented and yet always humble. As Head Girl of Whanganui Girls College she inspired all who knew her to focus on what you can do rather than what you can't. To always be positive - to live by the maxim of our school motto ad astra to aim for the stars.

But more than anything else, it was her utter dedication to live a life of service that will be an enduring memory for me.

Giving to others was a hallmark of her heritage. Her mum came from Te Arawa to Ratana Pa coming specifically to care for the Mangai's son, Hamuera. She stayed on and before long there were her own three children to care for Kath, John and Marilyn. It was truly moving to hear her siblings speak at the service with such incredible gratitude for their sister's life.

And it made me think. Isn't the ultimate demonstration of a life well lived when everyone who weeps over you, remembers you as being the best person that you could be? Kath was the best of aunties, the best of sisters, the best of neighbours, the best of friends. From the reports of those from Norfolk Island where Kath had spent her later years it would appear that there was nothing she wouldn't do, to make someone else's life better.

In the Maori Party we live by a code of values, our kaupapa, which encourage us to treat others with respect (manaakitanga); to work for a common purpose (kotahitanga); to act with collective spirit, (whanaungatanga); to uphold spirituality as a foundation for our lives (wairuatanga). By far the greatest challenge any of us can face, is how to live our lives in ways which reflect these values. You know the old saying don't do as I say do as I do.

If these hard times have taught us anything it is that it is a good time to take stock. How neighbourly are we? How do we actively support our whanau? What have we done to help out those who are not doing so well? When was the last time we offered to look after the kids for the single parent next door; or cook a hot meal for someone who might need it? When did we show we care?

And it's probably a good time to ask ourselves, is this the best that I can be?

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