Gail Bower's sons stood with their heads bowed, each grasping a single red rose as a hearse carrying their mother slowly pulled away.
More than 300 people gathered at Havelock North Community Centre yesterday to farewell a woman who loved to laugh, adored her family, friends and two boys, Matthew and Daniel.
The 48-year-old's body was discovered outside her home in Campbell St Havelock North about 9.40pm last Friday. She had been stabbed multiple times.
Later that evening, a man, with cuts to his throat and wrists was arrested by armed police at his Keirunga Rd home, in relation to the incident.
During a moving ceremony, Matthew, with brother Daniel at his side paid tribute to, "an amazing little lady" who overcame adversity with a smile.
"She was caring, kind - those were the attributes that we were lucky to have in a mother when we were growing up. A lot of people have their dads to idolise when they are younger, but in a way I always kind of idolised my mum, you know, for those traits," he said.
"She would always just take the weight of the world on her shoulders, but she would never show it."
He had noticed a huge change since Gail split from their father, and her partner of 20 years, about four months ago - as though that weight had been lifted.
"After we left home, she really came out of her little shell, she started to enjoy life a lot more, spending a lot of time with her friends and family. Going out for dinner and drinks, having a generally good time."
Two weeks ago, Gail even went out drinking with Matthew and a few of his friends, an experience he will now treasure forever.
"I actually think she might have had a drink too many. It's always normally the mum looking after the son with a hangover, but this time it was the other way around.
"She loved it, I am sure she told all her friends about it. I'm glad I can share that memory with her."
A white and gold coffin at the front of the room was adorned with a tower of deep red roses. Below it, a recent photo beamed out at the crowd - a moment frozen in time, inside a plain brown frame.
Among the mourners were her siblings Tim, Paul, John, Dave and Bart, who have rallied together to form a strong network and support her sons. Gail's elderly father, David, was unable it to make the ceremony.
"Looking around this room right now and just seeing how many people cared for my mum, you know that really respected and loved her, it really means a lot," Matthew said.
"That just makes it that much better to know those people really cared about her and that she really cared [for them]."
One of her closest mates, Sheree Peterson, told tales of the mischief, cheekiness and laughter she shared with Gail, whom she met during their years at Karamu High School. They worked, flatted and holidayed together, shared their lives and even took off on their big OE to Australia in 1987.
"It was the type of friendship that builds bonds forever and was never to be broken.
"We never argued and we never fell out, we were just great friends and every moment was full of fun," she said fighting back tears.
Gail had loved her friends and work life - two things which were closely intertwined after 12 years of dedicated service to the ANZ and National banks in both Hastings and Havelock North.
Colleagues huddled together in support to express their treasured memories of a very dear friend and "beautiful" woman.
"We have worked together for 10 years, and you are not just a work colleague, you are a member of our family. Those who were lucky enough to have known or worked with you are very blessed," ANZ branch manager Nicola Robins began.
About six other woman spoke, each placing a single white rose on the casket before disappearing into an emotional crowd.
David Graham, retail manager for ANZ in Hawke's Bay said 12 extra staff were brought in from outside the region so others could attend the funeral service. Gail was surrounded by love in death as she was in life, with many placing kisses and rose petals on her coffin to show they remain beside her and she will never be forgotten.