Today marks three years since my mum died.

Apart from her outfits and her hair, Mum was known for her teaching.  Over the last few years her focus was on character education. “It’s character building,” was the often-repeated catchphrase of our childhoods, designed to keep us smiling despite being completely lost, stranded by the tide, snowed in, or soaked by the rain on our bikes.

Mum had a tough life.  She was a single Mum working several jobs whilst studying to be a teacher.  We had very little, but we didn’t know it.  We had the happiest, most fun and wholesome of childhoods.  We knew Mum worked hard, but it’s only now that I’m trying to juggle working and parenting and friendships myself that I can really appreciate all she did.

Our house was always the fun one that friends loved to come to.  As children, our friends knew they could get the paints out and get mucky; and still be allowed pudding, even if they didn’t finish their weird vegetarian dinner.  As teenagers, we would all get ready at mine, my friends clinking bottles up the stairs and leaving a sprawl of make up, empty Reef bottles and discarded clothes in my bedroom.

Mum never missed an opportunity for teaching.  One of my earliest memories was on a campsite in an awful storm.  Dad went off on an adventure in his all in one orange survival suit, and Mum and I hung out in the toilets learning about pie charts.

A few years ago Mum wanted to do something linking school with our clients at Volunteering in Health, so we came up with the pen pal project.  It connected so many people, not just clients and pupils, but many parents got involved too, and the pen pals made friends with each other.  Links were also forged between the school and Teignbridge House care home.

Nowadays everyone talks about mindfulness and gratitude as the keys to wellbeing.  But it always came naturally to Mum.  She appreciated the small things: a rainbow, a pretty wild flower, fresh rain on a dusty pavement, the wind in her hair, clean bedding.  She knew how to squeeze joy from every moment.

When Mum found out how sick she was, she was mainly grateful for the time she’d had; worried about how my stepdad would cope; constantly surprised to hear that we’d cried.  She never seemed angry or scared, though I’m sure she must have been both.

Mum would only want us to feel grateful for all our joyful memories with her and for the lessons she passed on to far more people than the 600 pupils she taught.  Her legacy lives on in all those people when they spread kindness and joy, at least partly because she inspired them.