Last Wednesday our family said a final goodbye to my mum and on Thursday we held an afternoon of celebration and thanks for her life. For the last two years we had watched mum disappear, sometimes kicking and screaming, under a blanket of dementia and although these last days have been full of sadness there are also feelings of release and peace.

I would like to share some things that were said about my mum and the way she lived because although she never realised it she had qualities that influenced so many lives.

My mum was kind. For someone of her generation she was remarkable in her tolerance and acceptance of all shades of humanity. She welcomed everyone into her home, regardless of their colour, sexual orientation, social background or belief. She stood up quietly against racism and homophobia when many in her social circle were not so tolerant. She never showed a single hesitation about opening her arms to her children’s friends, whoever they were. It was not surprising that so many came to her celebration or wrote cards about how comfortable mum made them feel in her home.

My mum loved life. She laughed a lot – but always with, and never at others. She loved to cook, entertain and simply take care of friends and family. Just being with her often lifted people up. The dementia sucked the joy and positivity out of her and this more than anything, was unbearable to watch.

My mum had generosity of spirit. She never forgot a birthday and put some effort into looking for the right gift. She worried in case she upset anyone and was distressed whenever she encountered bullying behaviour in any guise. She had been on a committee of a care home for the elderly and was appalled at how some individuals on a new management group treated the efforts of the voluntary workers – as if the only value in people was financial.

My brothers and I have had a struggle deciding how best to care for our mother in these later days. Yet we have always talked things through, made decisions together, trusted each other implicitly and faced up to any differences we had with respect and affection. We managed to cooperate and collaborate because self-interest was never on the agenda. We knew that little things add up to big things and that love given away returns many times over. Our mum taught us what really matters and that you can make a difference to the world just by being who you are.

I miss her more than I can say – but her spirit and influence remains – through me, my brothers, her grandchildren and everyone else she touched with her warmth and goodwill to the world. This is what I learnt from her life, this is the treasure she left me.