82-year-old Arpad Kiss might not have known he was dying when he made his way into a Darwin St Vincent de Paul charity shop, but he knew he was in trouble. After asking the staff to call an ambulance for him, Kiss collapsed.
Volunteers brought him outside and stayed with him. Some who knew CPR tried to revive the elderly man—to no avail.
“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,” store manager Fay Gurr told ABC News Canberra.
Though Kiss had been a stranger, Gurr felt a connection she couldn’t ignore. Tasking herself to find out more about the man she’d met so briefly, she sought information from the hospital where he’d been taken.
Medical records and recollections from those who’d dealt with him in the past revealed his name.
Gurr learned that Arpad Kiss had lived in the territory for quite some time, sometimes homeless and sometimes not. He’d had a long history of illness. She also learned that he was Hungarian, a Catholic… and that he had no next of kin.
Realizing that Kiss died without family or any known friends to mourn him, Gurr felt compelled to see that his passing would not go by unacknowledged: He may have been a stranger, but his life mattered.
At Gurr’s behest, arrangements were made by St Vincent de Paul for Kiss’s cremation and funeral service. Kiss was buried on what would have been his 83rd birthday.
The service was conducted, with full honors, by Bishop Charles Gauci at St Mary’s Cathedral in Darwin.
“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,” Bishop Gauci said.
“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.”
While Gurr hadn’t known what to expect when the day arrived, she and the other volunteers attending the solemn ceremony were determined to see their initial act of compassion through to the end—certain that those they serve with their mission deserve nothing less.