For many people across the world, their wedding days will mark the most important moments of their lives. After exchanging their vows, they’ll be ready to kick-start the next stage of their relationships with their respective partners. And Navar Herbert could certainly attest to that, as he tied the knot in June 2019.
Born in Otorohanga, New Zealand, Herbert had aspirations of becoming a sportsman one day, a dream that would come true when he reached adulthood. He eventually joined the Nerang Bulls Rugby Union Club, which is based in Queensland, Australia. And the Kiwi’s personal life also took a promising turn in 2016.
That’s because Herbert began a romantic relationship with a woman named Maia Falwasser, who also hails from New Zealand. For the next two years, they based themselves in Falwasser’s home city of Hamilton, ahead of their move to Queensland. And the big changes in their lives didn’t end there.
During that period, Herbert and Falwasser also had their first child together, whom the couple named Kyrie. However, they then received some devastating news in October 2018. At that time, the rugby player was informed that he had a brain tumor, which in turn led him to pop the big question a few months later.
Across the world, there are a number of remarkably picturesque locations that attract visitors year after year, such as the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. And Herbert and Falwasser’s homeland of New Zealand contains several such natural wonders.
Indeed, due to the incredible beauty of its landscape, New Zealand brings in more than $20 billion from tourists annually. Places such as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Milford Sound remain some of the nation’s most well-loved locations, enticing visitors from far and wide. And there are plenty other alluring locations dotted around these islands.
Otorohanga is one such place, located in New Zealand’s North Island. Around 100 years ago, the town had a tiny population, with fewer than 370 people living there. But by the start of the 1950, it’s estimated that more than 1,500 residents were based in the area.
The number of residents continued to go up, topping 2,600 at the turn of the 1990s. The population has remained fairly steady ever since, and Navar Herbert joined its ranks when he arrived into the world in March 1997.
Herbert had a number of interests while he was growing up, ranging from diving to sports. But one in particular really stood out for the Kiwi, namely his boundless passion for rugby. In his native New Zealand, this is probably the biggest sport going, thanks in part to the massive success of the national side.
Known as the All Blacks, New Zealand’s rugby union team boasts more World Cup titles than any other nation, having lifted the trophy three times. And Herbert was inspired by those results to pursue a career in the sport. Moreover, a few years later, his brother Kohan followed suit and eventually earned a place in one of the country’s junior teams.
Away from sport, Herbert’s life changed forever in 2016 when he got together with his future wife. A resident of Hamilton, New Zealand, Falwasser and her new boyfriend then made themselves a home in the North Island city.
During their time in Hamilton, Herbert took on a job at Fonterra, a well-known dairy firm in New Zealand. Although it was only established less than two decades ago, it’s already become the biggest business in the entire country. But while he worked on the factory floor, Herbert didn’t forget about his aspirations of becoming a rugby player.
And Herbert’s sporting dreams eventually came true. The Kiwi was signed up by the Nerang Bulls Rugby Union Club, based in Queensland. As a result, both he and Falwasser packed their bags for Australia, with the couple embarking on the next stage of their lives together.
Moreover, the significant changes in their lives didn’t end there. Herbert and Falwasser also decided to add a new face to their family, with the new arrival coming in July 2018. The couple named their baby boy Kyrie Herbert.
And for the next few months, everything appeared to be going well for Herbert’s young family in Queensland. However, their lives were turned upside down in the fall of 2018. That October, the rugby union player received some heartbreaking news from his doctors about his health.
Tragically, Herbert discovered that he had a type of cancer known as rhabdomyosarcoma, which had caused a deadly tumor to develop in his brain. This form of the disease is usually found in younger people up until their teenage years, although adults can sometimes contract it as well.
The American Cancer Society provides a few more details about the condition on its official website. “Sarcomas are cancers that develop from connective tissues in the body, such as muscles, fat, bones, the linings of joints or blood vessels,” the post reads. “There are many types of sarcomas.”
“Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a type of sarcoma made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal (voluntary) muscles,” the post continues. “These are muscles that we control to move parts of our body. Most rhabdomyosarcomas develop in children and teens, but they can also occur in adults.”
Off the back of that point, the American Cancer Society has one more thing to say on the matter, which directly relates to Herbert’s condition. “Adults are more likely to have faster-growing types of RMS and to have them in parts of the body that are harder to treat,” the post adds. “Because of this, RMS in adults is often harder to treat effectively.”
Following the diagnosis, Herbert’s health became much worse over the ensuing months – but doctors were unable to do anything to help. So by the summer of 2019, the new father was extremely ill, although he still tried to look forward. And on that note, he wanted to take a trip to a local shopping mall in June.
During Herbert’s time at the mall, he purchased a ring for Falwasser. As it turned out, he intended to ask his partner to marry him, and she subsequently accepted the proposal, much to the Kiwi’s delight. Unfortunately, though, his condition took another bad turn a short time later.
According to Herbert’s mother Vanessa Herbert, he lost the use of his legs at that point, while his ears and eyes started to weaken as well. With that in mind, plans were put in place to stage the wedding just a week after he’d popped the question. And the ceremony itself was set to be held in the rugby player’s back garden.
After the details were confirmed, a number of different people from the neighborhood then helped bring everything to life. In addition to that, several players from nearby rugby clubs offered their assistance as well. And thanks to those efforts, Herbert’s yard was completely transformed ahead of the big day.
Vanessa certainly appreciated the help, as she revealed during an interview with The New Zealand Herald in June 2019. “Everybody just came together. We didn’t have to do a thing,” the mom said. “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.”
With all the pieces now in place, the wedding was scheduled for June 24, 2019. And on the day of the ceremony, a camera was on hand to capture all of the action as Herbert and Falwasser got ready. The preparations were tinged with sadness, of course, due to the groom’s worsening condition.
Prior to the wedding, in fact, Herbert had even suggested that he could pass away on the big day itself – but his mom had other ideas. Vanessa told the newspaper, “I said, ‘No you’re not, because your brother’s coming home and you’re getting married at 4:00 p.m.’” And with those words ringing in his ears, Herbert kept going.
At this point, the cameras capture the pair getting dressed, as Falwasser pulls out her white wedding gown. Herbert, meanwhile, is helped into his white shirt by a group of friends, before a woman puts his shoes on. And during this particular step, both of the New Zealander’s hands are being lovingly held.
From here, the video cuts to a shot of Herbert in his wheelchair, as guests take him outside for the ceremony. He’s then moved to the altar in his yard, which is positioned on a blue rug. Following this, Falwasser walks down the aisle and stands across from her partner, which draws a warm response from him.
Despite being deathly ill, Herbert says to the bride, “Hello my wife, hello my baby. I love you.” After this, the video captures the wedding itself, showcasing all the big moments from the bittersweet occasion. And once the couple exchange their rings, they’re then pronounced as “partners for life” in front of their friends and family.
Herbert and Falwasser subsequently seal their coupling with a tender kiss at the altar. The video doesn’t end here, though. Indeed, a group of male guests now gather together in front of the bride and groom at this point, ready to perform a special ceremonial dance.
With everyone in place, the group then put on an emotional haka – a traditional New Zealand dance – for Herbert and Falwasser, marking their big day. When the routine comes to an end, they subsequently line up and congratulate the couple individually. From here, the video cuts to some other highlights, which include the signing of the “Certificate of Commitment.”
Following this montage, the camera captures Falwasser throwing her bouquet of flowers into a crowd and then settling down beside Herbert. On that note, the video finally comes to a close. Tragically, however, the new husband and wife only had around 30 hours together after the wedding, as he passed away the next day.
While the family continued to mourn, Herbert’s mom looked back at the wedding during her conversation with The New Zealand Herald. “Even though he couldn’t really see her, he was like, ‘Whoa,’” Vanessa said. “He knew what was happening and that it was what he and Maia had wanted for a long time.”
Vanessa also admitted that Herbert’s condition toward the end had left her heartbroken. “You don’t like seeing your son suffering,” the mother added. “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 s***.”
As for the wedding video, it was eventually uploaded to YouTube on the day of Herbert’s death. Since then, it’s earned close to six million views and more than 65,000 likes on the website. In addition to those numbers, the post has generated in excess of 5,000 comments as well, with users keen to offer their condolences.
Meanwhile, Herbert’s rugby club shared the news on its Facebook page to keep fans informed. “Nerang Bulls Rugby Union Club Committee would like to send all our love to our own Herbert family on the sad news this morning that Navar has grown his wings overnight,” the post read. “We will keep everyone up to date with information as we know.”
Falwasser revealed her plans for Herbert’s funeral a short time later on GoFundMe. As it turned out, the Kiwi wouldn’t be buried in Australia – instead, his body would be taken back to his homeland of New Zealand. For that to happen, though, the family required some additional funds.
“Navar’s journey has just begun,” Falwasser wrote. “Shortly we will be taking him back to Kotahitanga Marae, where he has asked to be laid to rest. He has impacted so many people near and far, and he will always be in our memories and have a special place in our hearts.”
“As expected, costs to take Navar back home along with his immediate family have been quite extensive,” Falwasser added. “And to give us every opportunity to spend our last moments with him, we are asking for donations to assist with this. I am truly, truly appreciative of your support.”
To help cover those costs, Falwasser aimed to bring in around $80,000 in donations on GoFundMe. And by August 2019 more than 3,000 people had contributed to the target, sending in whatever money they could. As it stands, in fact, Herbert’s “Journey Home” has almost reached that goal already.