Laughter and tears as Blair Vining farewelled


Hundreds of people have attended an emotional memorial service in Invercargill to pay tribute and farewell cancer care advocate Blair Vining.

Blair Vining is responsible for New Zealand's largest ever cancer petition. Photo: NZ Herald
Blair Vining is responsible for New Zealand's largest ever cancer petition. Photo: NZ Herald
The 39-year-old father of two died on Friday, almost a year after being diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer - but not before he sparked a national conversation about the treatment and care of patients and under-resourced district health boards.

More than 140,700 people signed his petition calling for better cancer care in New Zealand, and the creation of a national cancer agency - the very last item on his bucket list.

Today, Mr Vining was honoured at a service at ILT Stadium Southland that began at 11.30am today. Many who attended wore  rugby jerseys to acknowledge his passion for the sport, as he'd requested.
 

As people walked in, a video of Mr Vining played which included overview from him about the diagnosis of his aggressive cancer, a chronology of his bucket list items, as well as montages of him enjoying life with loved-ones.

It was evident he lived his last year to the fullest. From his work on campaigning for better cancer care, to family holidays in Milford Sound, to rugby games with mates - he made sure he left friends and family with good and lasting memories.

Garth Gallaway led the ceremony and introduced the speakers as they walked to the stage. Each had been given a topic by Mr Vining.

The first was Shaun Vining - he had been told by his brother he had to do five minutes of comedy to stop people from crying. There was plenty of both, with stories and memories told to the crowd causing tears and laughter.

Central Southland College's First XV, who were coached by Mr Vining, performed a haka at the...
Central Southland College's First XV, who were coached by Mr Vining, performed a haka at the memorial service. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Several others spoke about their friend, including oncologist Dr Chris Jackson, who told of how the cancer campaign started and how they became friends during that journey.

His daughters, Della-May and Lilly Vining, also took to the stage to share their favourite memories of their dad.  Della-May said that was never an easy question to answer. 

"I love looking into your big, beautiful eyes . . . that's something I'm going to miss."

While Mr Vining may not be her birth father, Della-May said she was in the process of changing her name to match his.

His wife, Melissa, spoke of how lucky she was to have been married to him, and thanked everyone for attending.

Central Southland College's First XV, who were coached by Mr Vining, performed a haka. 

At the end of the service the casket was carried of the stadium by friends to one of his favourite songs - Pearl Jam's Just Breathe.

Mr Vining is to be buried in Winton, where he lived with his family. 

Many wore rugby jerseys in honour of Blair Vining's love of the game. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Many wore rugby jerseys in honour of Blair Vining's love of the game. Photo: Gregor Richardson

CANCER CARE PETITION

Given only eight weeks to live, the Vining family was told wait time for treatment at Southland Hospital would be the same.
 
Blair Vining received treatment privately and, knowing he would leave his wife and daughters behind, made a bucket list that aimed to reduce the number of patients whose family would experience the same.
 

His Facebook page that generated nationwide support, Blair Vining’s Epic Journey, was used as a platform to create conversation about under-resourced district health boards.

More than 140,700 people signed the petition that called for better cancer care and the creation of a national cancer agency. Since the petition was presented, Parliament announced its New Zealand Cancer Action Plan 2019–2029, focused on delivering outcomes in four areas.

Those areas were consistent and modern cancer care, equitable cancer outcomes, fewer cancers and better cancer survival.

Mr Vining and his family recently began pushing for the establishment of a charity hospital and interested representatives and individuals met last month in Invercargill to discuss this.

While Mr Vining could not attend, as he was receiving treatment in Dunedin, Mrs Vining said she was overwhelmed by the generosity shown at the meeting.

A post on his Facebook page thanks supporters: "You have shared our journey over the last year and wrapped us in love."

The stadium was chosen to accommodate the large crowd expected. Photo: Laura Smith
The stadium was chosen to accommodate the large crowd expected. Photo: Laura Smith

 

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