‘Today I die’: Heartbreaking wedding
The day of his wedding, Navar Herbert woke and told his mum: "Today's the day I die."
Vanessa Herbert had a straightforward response to her 22-year-old son, who was near death from rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive and highly malignant form of cancer which had spread to his brain.
"I said 'No you're not, because your brother's coming home and you're getting married at 4pm'."
Herbert was married at 4pm on Monday. He died 30 hours and 34 minutes later, his mum told the New Zealand Herald last night.
Now family, which includes his widow Maia Falwasser, baby son Kyrie, siblings - including his brother Kohan Herbert, who returned from wearing the black jersey for New Zealand at the under-20 championship in Argentina the day of the wedding - will travel from their Queensland home to Herbert's place of birth, Otorohanga, for his burial.
A GoFundMe page to help pay for his return has raised more than $88,000.
Herbert will be buried at Kotahitanga Marae on Tuesday, little Kyrie's first birthday.
Following the Nerang Bulls rugby team player's death, Falwasser posted a heartbreaking video of the couple's intimate backyard wedding ceremony.
The emotional video showed Herbert being assisted by his family to get ready for the event as he sat visibly ill in an armchair.
He was then taken to the ceremony in a wheelchair, greeting his wife-to-be with: "Hello my wife, hello my baby. I love you."
The couple, and guests, fought back tears as they exchanged vows and rings, and swore to "be partners for life" before a group of male guests performed a moving haka.
Herbert, who was diagnosed with the deadly cancer in October last year, had signalled his intentions a week before his death when he asked to be taken to the mall.
There, he picked out an engagement ring for his partner of three years, and proposed when he got home, Vanessa Herbert said.
She didn't think her son had gone down on one knee - he went downhill very quickly after the proposal, losing his ability to walk and, at times, see and hear.
The community, including family, friends and those from the local rugby and rugby league clubs, had pulled together what was needed for the wedding within a few hours, for which she was grateful, Vanessa Herbert said.
"Everybody just came together. We didn't have to do a thing. In the space of three hours we had the yard decked out, we had flowers, outfits, someone brought Maia a ring for Navar. It was just amazing."
Her son was struggling, but was still able to show his feelings when his bride appeared.
"Even though he couldn't really see her he was like 'whoa'. He knew what was happening and that it was what he and Maia had wanted for a long time."
It was bittersweet for his mum - she couldn't help but think of what could've been.
"You don't like seeing your son suffering. If he could've stood and said the vows it would've been amazing, but he was in a wheelchair.
"The wedding was beautiful. It's just sad, it would've been nice if he wasn't so sick. Cancer's shit."
Falwasser was doing all right, Vanessa Herbert said.
"She's got a lot of family coming from New Zealand."
The 20-year-old is originally from Hamilton, and the couple lived in the city for a couple of years, and Herbert worked at the Fonterra milk factory, his mum said.
Her husband had "impacted so many people near and far", Falwasser wrote on the Go Fund Me page this week.
"He will always be in our memories and have a special place in our hearts."
Vanessa Herbert would also treasure the memories of her "cheeky, practical joker" son who loved rugby, hunting and diving, and was thoughtful beyond his years.
"I'll remember how he was always very good at picking presents. He was thoughtful. He'd remember something you said six months ago."
There would be plenty of happy stories and videos to share with wee Kyrie, but most of all the little boy would hear how much he meant to his dad.
"We are just going to tell him that his dad loved him, and loved his mum."
This story was originally published in The New Zealand Herald and is reprinted with permission.