Te Aomihia | Kaikōura, Canterbury

“I think a lot of people are influenced by their mothers, and mine was very influential on many people of all ages – children, babies, adults and elderly. She was a Māori teacher specifically and I grew up in the class with her from when I was three months old, in an environment that was beautiful, and very family-orientated and very culturally-strengthening.

I was very blessed to be able to grow up in that environment at school, and to everyone she was very strong, and forthright and quite a sword. She could just look at you and she was naturally intimidating, and that’s not necessarily in a bad way. But at home, it wasn’t quite the same because there was a lot of conflict at home. When we weren’t at home, we were able to immerse ourselves in our Māoritanga, which is everything that we are, and at home we were unable to, because of family and security. Mum was a victim of domestic violence at home.

When I was 10, and my mother was 33, she stopped teaching. She fell pregnant with my brother, Stirling and then two weeks later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was cleared within two years, and we re-located to the North Island. My mother had Quinn and we were in the North Island for two years. Then she was re-diagnosed with terminal cancer and we returned to the South Island where we knew she’d get more than adequate care. The Christchurch earthquakes hit, and we moved to Kaikōura where we’d be far enough from the effects of the earthquake, but close enough to go back every weekend for her treatment. She passed in 2012 on my brother Stirling’s fifth birthday when Quinn was two. Throughout that whole endeavour, throughout all the cancer she was still abused. It wasn’t necessarily the cancer that took my mother’s life from her. It was the loss of her spirit, which died a bit before she did. Near the end, in her last months, my mother reconnected with her spirit, her Māoritanga, by reaching out to her family a bit more. Bringing Māoritanga into the home, whether it be just doing prayer before kai, and allowing people to come in regardless of consequence, and she returned to church. My mum and dad had attempted to get married three times before, but they got married in the lounge a month before she passed, and we were Christened a few weeks later. My mother reconnected with her spiritual self, which was the last piece to allow her final peace. I don’t believe that you should have to wait till you’re dead, though to find peace. I think you should be able to find it here, beforehand and that nothing should keep you from finding that peace. 

I learned not to be conflicting and to be honest. My mother had one life there and one life there, and the things she’d say here would conflict with the things she wanted there. You must be you. Don’t be hypocritical. Be true in a certain way. Be honest with yourself. I’ve struggled with mental health, with depression and anxiety and my body. Everything did not cooperate with each other, I needed to listen to my gut, and actually trust in myself. Trust is important. I learned that throughout my whole childhood and that whole ordeal. I became really ashamed of who I was. I was really ashamed of my Māoritanga. But I’ve found it again, and I’ve managed to find my spirit. Throughout those things, everyone idolised my mother, and it was set in stone for everyone that I was to be just like her, but I never actually wanted to be like her. I wanted to be the complete opposite. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I wanted to be strong enough to walk away, and I wanted to be strong enough to be a good influence, and though my mother was a strong influence, it wasn’t necessarily good. So, I wish to be a good influence. I wanted to be like my mother in respect to working with people, and influencing them in a good way, and so I’m doing that now.”

** If you, or someone you know, needs help you can text or free call 1737 at anytime to talk to, or text with, a trained counsellor.

For specialised help with family violence: free call 0800 456 450 or www.areyouok.org.nz/i-need-help/ **

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