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23 January 2021

‘Our elderly deserve to be honoured and respected’

Sunday 13 December 2020 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, Weekend


‘Our elderly deserve to be  honoured and respected’
Verokura (Vero) Andrew and her grandmother Mama Tapu Andrew. 20121134

The decision to leave her job and look after her grandparents was easy for Verokura Andrew and she quickly realised that to care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honours.

In 2004, Verokura (Vero) Andrew left her job to take care of her grandfather Temata Andrew who had suffered a stroke and needed round the clock care.

He passed away two years later at the age of 79.

But she continued to stay home to look after her grandmother Tapumanoanoa Andrew (nee Tinirau), affectionately known as Mama Tapu, who is 91-years old today.

Born on April 2, 1982, Vero was raised by her mother Mia and grandparents, until her mother moved to Hawaii with her husband Dave Thomson (former maire exporters).

She attended Arorangi Primary and Tereora College until New Zealand School Certificate (NZSC).

Vero says the decision to stay home and take on the responsibility of caring for her grandfather was easy.

“I had to leave work, there was only myself and my brother (working) and our grandparents at home.”

The biggest challenges she faced was learning how to take care of him, as half his body was paralysed.

“We were in hospital for a solid month, learning how to take care of him, learning how to feed, bathe and turn him over every two hours.”

Papa Temata was bedridden for two years and there were many days Vero found difficult.

“But in my mind, I always thought of it as a lesson and it would always have purpose although at the time it was not that clear; and I knew there was something important I would learn.

“I quickly realised that to care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honours; no paper, degree or bachelor could compare to that.”

Mama Tapu rises every morning at 3 or 4am and turns the light on - her time for devotion, she reads well with glasses.

Kai tea (breakfast) ensues, a nap about 9am followed by her favourite hobby of the art of sewing tivaivai.

Great grandchildren stop in for visits, when they leave the quiet settles in again.

The family are devoted Apostolic Church members.

“Mama loves church,” Vero says.

The home groups in the village of Arorangi meet at their home on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“She is ready and sits on the veranda at 5pm waiting for the start at 7pm…”

Come Sunday, Mama Tapu is dressed and ready for church at 8.30am, although the service does not start until 10am.

“We leave home at 9 o’clock so we are not rushing, we settle her in her seat before church starts.

“She feels like she’s in a movie when people watch her, that’s why we get there early.”

Mama Tapu is diabetic and has heart problems and Vero ensures she takes her daily medication.

A close friend of the family believes Mama Tapu does not suffer from amnesia because of the loving care she gets from Vero.

“Vero is always with Mama 24/7, entertaining and keeping Mama busy with their tivaivai sewing.

“It’s a mystery but a blessing for Mama to still be alert and focused, amen to that.”

Bishop Tutai Pere acknowledges Vero’s devout commitment saying, “your most precious lifetime treasure – your beloved grandparents – the late Papa Temata and Mama Tapu Andrew.”

“Just as Jesus spoke from his cross, with great agony and dying breath in John 19: 26 & 27 said thus: ‘When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son”! 27, Then said he to the disciple, behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

“Ephesians 6:1-3 says: ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise. That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth’.”

This year marks 29 years since Vero gave her life to Jesus at the age of nine, when she and her brother were baptised.

“I was not given a choice at the time because we lived and were brought up by our grandparents, so whatever Papa said, goes,” she says.

“My life as a born again child of God was guided and nourished by loving grandparents who wanted only the best for us.

“We were taught and expected to obey every command and requirement both from the word and from our Papa and Mama.

“I thank God for them both who had grounded me in God.”

Vero wants younger people to remember and respect their parents/grandparents, “because they were with you at a young age”.

“So, don’t leave them when they are old.”

In 2019 Mama Tapu experienced a serious health scare.

Vero knew what to do.

She knew how to change an adult’s nappy, to feed a helpless person, to make her happy, when to talk and when to just let her sing aloud, no matter what time of the night it was.

“I learned to pray no matter what the outcome, and to always be thankful.”

It has been 16 years for Vero as a full time carer and she says there is nothing she would have done differently if she had the chance again.

Vero believes everything that happens in life has purpose and reason.

“God knows our past and future, from the day we were born right up to now; the Lord has blessed us with the strength to keep holding on and keep caring for our mama.”

“The elderly need someone to look after them, for their daily meds, doctor’s appointments, transportation, cleaning, cooking, laundry, bathing…these are duties that I gladly do for my mama, daily.”

She has a message for children and grandchildren.

“Your parents don’t owe you anything and they are getting older with each passing day. They will not be here forever. Instead of thinking they are a constant source of stress and drama, we should be the ones lightening the load for them; they have already done their jobs of raising us,” she says.

“It’s time to grow up. Look after your parents and visit your grandparents, make time to visit them, call, text or video call; offer to mow their lawn, cook for them, take them out.”

The worst feeling isn’t being lonely... it’s being forgotten, Vero says.

“So many of our elderly population are forgotten about or disregarded. One day we will all be where they are, is this how we want to be treated?

“Our elderly deserve to be honoured and respected.”

Vero believes Mama Tapu is living a long life because she has been an obedient child and through the constant prayers of the saints.

“The loving and attentive care of our spiritual dad Bishop Pere has also been our strength; my family, near and far that also look out for us, I thank all of them for the support. And last but not least, my God who when I need someone is there, thank you God for loving me to love Mama.”

Taking their photograph, Mama Tapu insists Vero sits closer.

“I’m Mama Tapu’s sidekick,” Vero says with a laugh.