From the CEO

Jul 1, 2018

Chief Executive Officer,
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Arihia Bennett

My Mother – a personal story

This year Mother’s Day was significantly different for me, as it was exactly one week after my mother passed away. On this day I walked down the road to the urupā to visit my Mum, and as I stared at her lying in front of me I was still in disbelief. How do you go from having someone right next to you throughout your life to them no longer being with you? It has been an incredibly heartfelt journey losing a mother who was the anchor of our whānau. Although she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s more than 17 years ago, no one knew of the internal struggle that my mother wrestled with on a daily basis with this illness. All those years she remained upbeat and often defied the milestones of the disease progressing. Her relentless strength, endurance, and determination saw her maintain a full working career until a couple of years ago. Mum knew that the Parkinson’s was progressing into the later stages, but her steely willpower kept her engaged and occupied with her mokopuna, her craftwork, and her social activities, such as being a longtime member of the Tuahiwi Māori Women’s Welfare League.

Not much would get past my mother – she was astute, sharp, and never lacked a direct comment when it was needed. Her talents were unlimited and she would push the boundaries, even in areas that she hadn’t tried before, and quite often the rest of us couldn’t keep up. Her eye for fashion was one of her pleasures and we would all marvel at the creations that she would effortlessly come up with.

Each day that goes by since my mother’s passing I think of so many memories, and without me realising it, her lifelong influence now has its place within my own makeup. It is enduring and it is a precious whakapapa for which I am eternally grateful.

As an iwi we pride ourselves on the richness of our whakapapa, our whānau connections and relationships. The very soul or heart of this begins at home, so where possible immerse yourself and persevere with these relationships in both the good times and the bad. I’ve heard stories of family members who have taken strong oppositional positions on particular matters, and they have remained stuck for many years. Time doesn’t stand still and life is short, so it’s important not to spend your days caught up in maintaining more pain. Maybe my view is too
simplistic, as I know it takes two to tango – but it is at least worthy of a thought or two.

As I look ahead I will always be thankful for what my mother has taught me, and I will continue to celebrate this, knowing that we will meet up again some day.