Goodbye Duke Tumai!

Duke died from a heart attack on Wednesday evening.

At 49, it feels like the race has been run a bit short of what it could have been.

But he was carrying too much weight, doing too little exercise and eating the food that Maoris love.
I don't pretend to know Duke really well - he came into my life early this year and stayed only for a cup of tea and an amazing conversation.

And the amazing community he grew up in, that's got a heart big and wide, a rough diamond, the land of Tainui, the coalfields of Huntly, a town of battlers who look out for each other, the heartland maraes Maurea, Hora Hora, Waahi, Te Ohaki and Kaitumu, rich with culture, relationships and history - following the mystical winding Waikato River to the historic town of Rangariri.

And Duke was part of it all - he played in the Kingi Tanga Brass Band, he participated in his community and he had friends that he treasured and valued the time he spent with them.

When we payed our respects on Sunday, as he laid in state in Maurea Marae, little did we know how big the Tangi would be. The night before, we'd been to a 70th birthday of another Maori man, who had made a decision on his 60th birthday and given up the drink and taken up weight lifting and gym.
The things that are killing our Maori men are obvious: being overweight, starchy fatty food, alcohol, drugs and lack of exercise....
When we went for a cup of tea, I caught a glimpses of the local personalities, all working hard and humble, in the kitchen, around the back, lifting, carrying, serving, sweating to honor Duke's passing. And in the night, it became a really big Tangi, with people coming from all over to say goodbye.

Duke had dropped in early January to our home. My brother in law, Whaiti was one of his mates and he'd come to see him. Whaiti had left for Rotorua that day and had missed him. I asked him in for a cup of tea and we started to talk.

I told him about the workshop and book that I'd just been working on, about the concept of abolishing the word "retirement" from your language and working 2-3 days a week when you decide to "retire" from full time work, doing things that you love to do.

He loved the concept, engaged with it and told me he had a list of 100 guys in Huntly who could really benefit from planning ahead like this. His enthusiasm really blew me away!

.....and three months later, he's dead. He can't do anything anymore. His time is past. And he's only 49.

One of his mates had seen him earlier this week and told him to trim down and get some's too late now.

It makes me see the urgency of my retirement project, not just for me, but for all the people like Duke, who want more out of their lives than the thankless 9 to 5. For all their families, who crave their time....for their friends, who long for time to spend together...and for their hobbies and sports, waiting for their interest, their passion and their time.

Thanks Duke for touching me. Thanks for waking me up. Thanks for reminding me of the urgency of our life.

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