Erica Bennett Goss
(Please click photo to enlarge)
You’d never want it to end this way, your mum passing on when you’re 10 000 kms away on your own. But if that’s how it works out, you’d want, at least, to be among friends.
And that’s where I am right now. At Graham and Anthony Beck’s Gainesway Farm in Lexington Kentucky. Among South Africans with horses, and some really decent people. Gainesway was always one of the world’s most beautiful horse properties, and it’s probably more beautiful now than at any time in its previous history. Thank you, Gainesway.
There’s great heartache in losing a parent. At a relatively young age, my Dad passed on, and I’ve missed him like hell. But somehow we always thought Mum was indestructible. At 82, next birthday, she still drove herself alone to the family’s cottage on the Wild Coast, through some of the remotest country in South Africa, across some of its most testing roads and tracks. At 82, she still never missed a Shark’s match and just the other day she told me she was off to see the Indian Professional League Cricket. What really appealed to her though, was that it was a “double header”, which means you get to see two matches for the price of one. At 82, she was just as thrilled by the idea of a Twenty/20 contest as she might’ve been at 22.
Having been the wife of a horse breeder herself, and knowing how precarious a business it was then, I suspect she always worried whether we’d be able to make ends meet at Summerhill. She also knew that ever since I wagered my salary on Elevation to run a place in the J&B Met 36 years ago, my bank account had shown a debit balance. Last Thursday, for the first time in 30 years, Summerhill’s bank balance was in positive territory, and she was the first I phoned to share the news.
Whether she took that to be a signal that it was good for her to go, I don’t know but that’s the way it turned out. Her great friend, celebrated Cape Town horticulturist, Jean Almon, probably said it best. “Things will never be quite the same again”. Larger than life (just a smattering over 5 foot, or so she claimed), she was the Model T Ford of her era. One of South Africa’s foremost retailers of modern times proclaimed recently that six months in the business world with EBG, was like getting an MBA from Harvard.
To me though, she was just Mum. Inspired, practical, supportive, industrious, independent, a model of determination, generous to a fault, principled. And by her own example, Pat and I learned about values. Goodbye EBG. Summerhill owes you much, and I’m especially proud to call you Mum.