Fighting hard for their day in the sun
A 39-year-old dying man’s last wish is to give his longtime partner the wedding she deserves.
Ray Puni developed the lung disease bronchiectasis when he was a teenager.
He had a double lung transplant at the age of 34, but now it has failed.
Veronica Mame has been Puni’s best friend, lover, nurse and carer for the last seven years.
Puni now has just a few months to live but plans to wed at Kumeu Valley Estate on August 22.
The Glendene resident will be laid to rest in the same suit he plans to wear on his wedding day.
‘‘All I know is I have a very nice suit. I make small goals,’’ Puni says.
‘‘I want to make it to my 40th birthday – but we just don’t know.’’
His lung function has already dropped to 10 per cent and everyday tasks like showering have become a struggle.
Puni proposed to Mame on the four-year anniversary of his lung transplant over a restaurant meal on Mother’s Day.
‘‘I got down on one knee huffing and puffing and popped the question,’’ Puni says.
‘‘She looked at me and said ‘ are you kidding?’ and I’m kneeling down there running out of breath. ‘‘I’m like ‘I’m serious’.’’ The stunned bride-to-be said yes. ‘‘She means a lot to me. She’s been my nurse and carer,’’ Puni says. ‘‘She’s been there from the very beginning and I love her very much. I’m so grateful.’’
A number of businesses have come forward to help cover wedding costs.
Puni will use a wheelchair and take breaks during the wedding, to which about 70 guests have been invited.
A fundraising webpage has raised more than $9000 to help with the costs. If Puni doesn’t make it to the wedding then the funds will go towards his funeral.
The couple didn’t want to have the date any earlier because of the risk of illness during the early winter months.
Mame is making sure the finer details are perfect for the big day.
‘‘I want it to be a day to remember and to make memories for Ray,’’ she says.
‘‘We are trying to create quality time together.
‘‘It’s going to be a struggle when the time comes, but you don’t mourn the living.’’
Puni wants others to know the importance of going to the doctor.
He grew up with Samoan heritage and was given alternative treatment when he was sick.
‘‘He’s living like a 90-year-old and in your 30s and 40s you’re meant to be out enjoying life,’’ Mame says.
Ray Puni, left, is hoping he lives long enough to see his bride-to-be Veronica Mame walk down the aisle.