Strangers organise funeral for Arpad Kiss, 82, who died alone on the streets of Darwin|
The 82-year-old man's funeral service was small and simple, attended by about a dozen people who were both strangers and the last people he encountered.
Those who went said it was a strange but deeply moving experience: gathering to farewell someone they had never really met.
On a humid day early in November last year, an elderly man walked into a St Vincent de Paul op shop in Darwin and asked the people volunteering there to call an ambulance.
Some of the staff had undertaken first aid training and it became clear the man was seriously unwell.
They did what they could to help, then kept the ailing man company beneath the shade of a nearby tree.
But within the space of minutes, he died.
'That left a huge impression for our volunteers and me, to hear that story and know he came to Vinnies because he knew we would help,' the manager of St Vincent de Paul NT, Fay Gurr, said.
The charity workers became compelled to learn more about the stranger and, from medical records and conversations with hospital staff, Ms Gurr later gleaned a name — Arpad Kiss.
'It's a Hungarian name. He was Catholic. He had been in the Territory for quite a few years,' Ms Gurr said.
'He may not have been homeless at the time that he came to us, but he had periods of homelessness. And he had an illness or a health issue that had been ongoing.'
The staff learned authorities had been unable to identify any next of kin and, in the absence of any family and friends, they came to believe Mr Kiss had died alone.
'That's what we found out about him — not a lot, but enough,' Ms Gurr said.
'There was no choice, really, not to do this.'
Ms Gurr filed paperwork indicating St Vincent de Paul would provide a funeral service and cremation for Mr Kiss, an act of charity that moved some medical staff to tears.
An email was sent inviting people to a service on December 31, 2020 — the day Mr Kiss would have turned 83.
'He went with full honours'
People gathered to farewell Mr Kiss beneath the high arch of St Mary's Cathedral last Thursday — the charity workers, a local federal MP and a retired bishop among them.
'I didn't know what to expect because I was going to a funeral for someone that I had no connection with at all,' Ms Gurr said.
'But those people who came really felt that connection — that we were doing the best for this person, and that is at the core of what we believe in.'
Those present were invited by Catholic Bishop Charles Gauci of Darwin to share the fleeting interactions they had shared with Mr Kiss, then they bowed their heads and prayed.
'He went with full honours,' Bishop Gauci said.
'I asked those present to imagine their own funeral one day and what they would like people to say about them, and how that really affects how we live now.
'We choose to do what is good and loving and virtuous, rather than the opposite.
'It was a good reflection for all of us, but also an expression of love and care for a fellow brother.'
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