The name’s been done to Death


‘‘If you ask a dy­ing per­son what they want, it's not to travel the world, it's for a lemon pop­si­cle.’’

Af­ter years of hospice work, Mary Death has heard all pos­si­ble jokes about her name.

‘‘It’s been done to death,’’ she said.

For more than two decades the 68-year-old has worked as a nurse and a nurs­ing di­rec­tor at four hos­pices from Blen­heim to London.

For the last sev­eral years, she’s been di­rec­tor of nurs­ing at Te Omanga Hospice. She ab­so­lutely loves her work and has done since the day she stepped into Mary Pot­ter Hospice as a trainee.

While there, the med­i­cal di­rec­tor shared with her his the­ory of why peo­ple worked in pal­lia­tive care.

‘‘His the­ory is that peo­ple get at­tracted to hospice work be­cause they have had their own grief and they know what helped them,’’ she said.

Her grief came from los­ing her two-year-old son Myles, killed when he chased a ball in front of a car in the late 1970s.

Most of the hospice staff were aged over 50, she said, and she would be sur­prised if many of them hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced loss in their life.

‘‘Peo­ple put their foot through the door and you’re in the right place. You find your niche. For me, I loved the fact I had the free­dom to make a dif­fer­ence,’’ Death said.

‘‘When you get to the end of your life, it’s the lit­tle things that make a dif­fer­ence.’’

In her role and as a nurse, she said she would help peo­ple tick off what was on their bucket list.

‘‘If you ask a dy­ing per­son what they want, it’s not to travel the world, it’s for a lemon pop­si­cle,’’ she said.

A big part of hospice work was not just look­ing af­ter a pa­tient’s phys­i­cal needs, but their spir­i­tual needs too.

For ex­am­ple, the sea was im­por­tant to her and when her time came, she’d like to die by the sea. For other pa­tients, the flow­ers that came on their trays might be the most im­por­tant thing in their day.

As she’s worked in hos­pices, Death has writ­ten poetry in­spired by what she has seen and ex­pe­ri­enced in her job. ‘‘My pa­tients were my muse.’’

Some of her poems are pri­vate, oth­ers she shares with pa­tients or with her staff. Re­tire­ment was com­ing up for her and she’d been toy­ing with a project to keep her busy.

She wanted to con­nect with hos­pices around the coun­try and ask for them to pro­vide some­thing cre­ative, whether it was a poem, paint­ing or song, to put to­gether in a book.


Te Omanga Hospice nurs­ing di­rec­tor Mary Death has heard all the jokes about her un­usual last name.

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