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.
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.
"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.
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. "It was the type of friendship that builds bonds forever and was never to be broken."
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.
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