Jonah Lomu, rugby’s ‘gentle giant’ and former All Blacks player, who died earlier this month at the age of 40, was remembered on Monday 30 November 2015 at a public memorial service.
The service took place at Auckland’s Eden Park Stadium in New Zealand, and began with a traditional Maori haka, which paid tribute to Lomu’s Tongan descent.
Lomu was diagnosed with a rare kidney condition in 1995, but the cause of his death is currently unknown. A possibility that is being considered by doctors is that Lomu developed a blood clot on the long flight home from the UK. He was had been in Britain with his wife and two sons to watch the Rugby World Cup.
The haka was performed by former Wesley College students and Lomu’scolleagues. Lomu’s wife Nadene wore a woven skirt, a tradition Tongan symbol of mourning and respect worn at funerals. His two sons wore his famous number 11 rugby shirt. After the haka and powhiri welcome ritual, Lomu’s coffin was carried in by several people, some of them being former All Blacks players.
Although New Zealand’s Prime Minister is currently attending the world climate conference in Paris, he recorded a personal video message that was played at the funeral.
In the video, he said that Lomu “proved that you can come from anywhere in New Zealand, in any background, and make it to the top”.
Amongst the several thousand attending the memorial were footballer David Beckham and Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman, and a tribute song was performed by pupils of Lomu’s former school, Favona primary.
A private memorial will take place on tomorrow, Tuesday 1 December in Auckland.