** as a little disclaimer - I'm not sure why these uploaded images look so different from the actual images. Their colouring is off - the black and whites look "sepia" and the clarity of some are poor. I've uploaded and reuploaded ... trying different sizes, different ways of getting them on the blog. Nothing's working ... so strange?? Maybe b/c I'm in NZ?? Dunno ... but - for now - this will have to do. xx **
At 230am New Zealand time, the airline steward woke me up to ask if I wanted "eggs" or "fruit" for breakfast. I looked out my window - it was definitely night. I stretched ... and ordered eggs.
An early breakfast, to say the least - but realizing that I would be landing in less than a few hours ... it kinda made sense.
I landed in Auckland, just before 5am. It was dark. It was cold ... and the toilet overflowed in the airport bathroom ... but that's a different story *ugh*.
When I walked out of customs - my parents greeted me, along with my cousin Nick and his bride-to-be, Amy. I was SO excited to see them all. But within a few moments, my mom lead me aside and told me that Uncle Mike had taken a turn for the worse. They were giving him only days to live.
As I tried to process that ... we headed to our hotel in downtown Auckland. Nick and Amy stayed for a VERY early breakfast ... and I then had a much needed nap.
The plan was to meet at my cousins, Vic + Ruth's place, for brunch. Vic and Ruth know how to put on LOVELY breakfasts ... and more cousins would be showing up to meet.
Auntie Mary was doing so well - considering all that was going on with Uncle Mike. See, Uncle Mike had been battling Alzheimer's disease for a very, very long time. He had been in a home for the last three years, after Auntie Mary doing all she could for years prior to that.
She was able to enjoy her family, despite all that was going on.
My mom took this one of Ruth and I. Not bad, mom *grin*!!
And it just kept getting better - with a suprise Skype visit with my cousins Michael and Bronny who live in San Franscisco ...
Breakfast was HUGE. Fruit, yogurt ... and pancakes that Vic suggested I put Hokey Pokey ice-cream in and roll up. UM PARDON?? If you know me - you'll know that ice cream is my love language ... my "clean eating" would be put on hold while I downed a pancake. Or two.
Jono and Geneva arrived ... I had been so excited to see them. I wasn't sure what to expect after his near-fatal car accident ... but man oh man. He was awesome. I was SO pumped. And Geneva ... well, she's my hero.
David and Katie came too ... love those two so much.
We did a little Facetiming with my hubby ... always a good laugh then.
But after some great food and conversation, it was time for us to all pack up. Uncle Mike was still unconscious, and the doctors were saying that he would probably pass by the next morning or so. This was going to be tough.
This had been such a long journey and the fact that almost everyone was there, was a miracle in itself. Not exactly how I had thought my first day would be - but so thankful to have been able to be here.
Auntie Mary asked respectfully asked for no photos of Uncle Mike's face.
The home decided to let Uncle Mike be wheeled out of his room - as there were now too many of us. So we went to the lounge, and the keyboard was brought out.
I was tired - and battling a chest cough (still am *cough cough*) - but they asked if I would lead some worship songs. I have a very talented family - full of musicians and artists ... I was honoured to be asked. Their voices lead - and I followed along.
Then, my cousin Christine lead as well ...
After so many songs, many tears and breaking voices ... we started telling "fun" Uncle Mike stories. And there were so many great ones ...
I cannot describe the feeling in that room. Peaceful. Loving. I don't really know ... but I know that God was there with us. And that overwhelming feeling of "family" overtook me.
Ben, Julia and the kids arrived ... the last of those who were able to come. And within about 10minutes, Uncle Mike passed as we all sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness". It was like he had waited. He was gracious, right 'til the end.
I never took any photos after he passed. We were all too busy loving on each other - just amazed that we had all been there together ...
After some talk, we decided to head back to Vic and Ruth's place - order some yummy Thai food - and start talking about some of the arrangements that would be needed to be done.
Again, so peaceful and organized. Everyone respecting each other's voices and thoughts. This group was really making the very best out of a very difficult time.
Time for another "FaceTime" with my hubby *grin* ...
We were all exhausted.
And THAT was my very first day in NZ. Yesterday - I took three iPhone pics *grin*. Today - I'm off to Devonport with Nick and Amy ... and more family too. Then, another cousin's dinner at Robert and Christine's place ... I LOVE THIS PLACE. I LOVE THESE PEOPLE.