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.