AS I walked to the podium of the church at my mother's memorial service I was struck by two things: the crowd of people who were there, and the range of ages of those attending.
We were in a small community on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island.
A place that she had grown up in, left and then come back to after my father had left us.
We had grown and left her and, magically, she met her childhood sweetheart at a school reunion and they rekindled a loving relationship that lasted more than 20 years.
She had seven children to my father, who left her when I was 11.
Five of us survived. She sacrificed a great deal while still working full-time to bring us up and to ensure food on the table, clean clothes and she always made room for our friends to whom she would open her heart and welcome.
She was curious, funny, stern and committed to learning.
When I think back over the time that I had with her and realise the amount of work that she did to teach us about the importance of values, self-respect, humility, optimism, charity and resilience and how she demonstrated through her own life a dedication to education and learning, I know how fortunate I was to have had her as my mum.
When I went off the rails, she stood by me even though I had hurt her.
When I was discouraged she encouraged me. She treated me as a young, dynamic mind and respected how I thought, what I thought and what I would do.
She fought fights on our behalf, and she could be very tough with anyone who was unfair and got between her and her children.
She was our staunchest ally and yet we challenged her often.
Because of her I determined to become a good man and a far better person than I had been in my youth.
As we all became older and more settled, she was at peace with us all and herself. Our relationship deepened into an abiding, deep, loving friendship.
As I raised my head to deliver her eulogy, as the tears formed and I looked up into the hundreds of faces, I realised at that moment what a significant impact Gwen had had on generations of people as an educator, teacher and friend.
It was an overwhelming expression of the love that we all had for her, her nature and her spirit.
She has left a legacy. These are my reflections. What are yours?
Happy Mother's Day to all of the amazing women who carry, nurture and develop our children (and to you, mum).
Nick Bennett is a facilitator, performance coach and partner of Minds Aligned. His column Mind You is published in the Weekend Magazine.
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