Tuesday, February 10, 2009



My husband’s mother, Milo, (rhymes with willow), had a thing about string – not just any string – green string. She used it to tie closed plastic bags and fabric bags, to tie notes and labels to articles, to hold packages together, to tie keys to hooks and pens to notebooks.

Here she is standing at the door to ‘The Whareama.’ (see post of Feb 4th )

In the last few years of her life she found it too difficult to get to her regular church on a Sunday morning but because she loved to hear and sing hymns she would walk down the street and around the corner to a small urban Maori Marae* where they held a church service.

One day a Maori elder found her outside listening to the music and invited her in.

She was accepted into the congregation and in the winter seated in the warmest spot beneath the wall radiator.

At her death the Maori women elders requested to care for her body until the day of the funeral. According to Maori custom the soul does not depart the body until after the funeral.

At the Marae they laid the open casket on the meeting house floor and placed a feather cloak over her tiny body to ‘keep her warm.’ They sang to her, shared stories about her life and slept around her to keep her company.

As Milo’s casket was carried from the church after the funeral service, one friend placed on it a stone that he had brought from her beloved Whareama. And a relative lay a length of green string next to the stone.

When the family expressed their gratitude to the elders of the marae for the honour of a tangihanga they replied, “We have lost our Mother.”

* A Maori marae is a sacred place that serves both religious and social purposes. It is a vital part of everyday life for the Maori where the culture can be celebrated, customs explored and ceremonies performed. The ceremony for the dead is called a tangihanga.

The poem 'String' is by Spike Milligan.


  1. Milo was loved and honored by the Maori people she knew. How did she come to be seen as a beloved Mother? She must have been brimming with lovingkindness an English translation for the Pali word, Metta.

  2. Dan: She was a very special woman, with a real zest for life and great "lovingkindness" Thanks for the phrase.

  3. I have tears in my eyes for the sacredness of that happening. She must have been an amazing woman with a great big heart tucked in a tiny body. What a way to leave for her next great adventure!

    p.s. I'm glad you're not near the horrible wild fires, but so sad for your country that so many have died such an awful death.

  4. Meri: Thankyou for your kind comments regarding Milo - it really was such a priviledge and honour to be offered the tangihanga, and such a beautiful way to be cherished.

    The death toll keeps escalating - Entire towns have been decimated...thanks for your concern

  5. What an amazingly beautiful post and a way to honor Milo....it is a pleasure to meet you.

  6. TSS - a touch of synchronicity happening here! Thank you for your nice remarks. I will come a'visiting.

  7. That is a very nice post Delwyn. String is extremely useful - I always keep a ball of it in my draw at work and on my boat I have a little canvas bag that has a variety of lengths and sizes of cordage ( which is big diameter string by any other name) - it is so very useful for tying things down with.

    Also string gives us that unanswerable question :

    How long is a piece of string???

  8. Thanks Alden : you could also use it to 'tie your kangaroo down'...

  9. I can't imagine a finer way to leave this world. What a wonderful story! Thank you.

  10. Reya and VS thanks for coming and commenting, Milo's love and caring came full circle.

  11. wow Delwyn... I am just catching up on your blog after too, too long and your telling of this story has brought tears to my eyes. Good ones, tears for all the kindness in this world that is often overlooked. thank you for sharing this.

  12. Valerie my dear friend...thank you for visiting and the lovely comment - which is also a kindness

  13. What a lovely post. It is so full of meaning and love. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  14. Lizzy: glad I could share it with so many. Thanks for your comment of appreciation.


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