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With You

The Dominion Post.

‘Bucket-list queen is what former Mary Potter Hospice nurse Mary Death calls herself.

One of her dying patients, a young mountaineer, yearned for one last trip to the Southern Alps but was too sick so she transformed the courtyard outside his Wellington hospice room into a winter wonderland with tons of shaved ice from a local fish market and fairy lights in the trees.

“When all was ready, his wife pulled back his curtains and opened the door and – whoosh – we pushed an avalanche of ice right into the room, all over his carpet.

“We told him, ‘We couldn’t take you to the mountains so we brought a mountain to you’.”

The nurses also put ice on his hands and chest to add to his alpine experience.

“He loved it – and he died about two days later. We did things like that all the time.”

Death’s poignant story is one of many by those involved in the Wellington hospice included in a new book called With You – The Mary Potter Hospice Story.

The book marks 100 years since English Catholic nun Mary Potter sent four sisters from her Little Company of Mary to New Zealand to care for the dying.

Mary Potter Hospice chief executive Ria Earp said the book was commissioned by the religious order as a gift to the hospice and the Wellington community.

Authored by local writer Bee Dawson, it traverses Mary Potter Hospice’s development in New Zealand, focusing on Wellington, where it opened New Zealand’s first hospice in 1979 at Calvary Hospital.

Sister Margaret Lancaster had asked the hospital’s leaders in 1974 if the hospital’s Mary Potter ward for the elderly could instead specialise in caring for the terminally ill.

The hospital agreed and major renovations were carried out before the ward was opened more than four years later.

Lancaster, whose important contribution is detailed in a chapter, said the book would be a legacy of the Little Company of Mary, which had only 11 sisters surviving nationwide, including three in Wellington.

“In 20 years, there might not be any of us left,” the 70-year-old registered nurse said.

The $35 book will be sold at hospice bases and shops.’


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