We had been out all day sight-seeing and had come back to the hotel briefly to shower and change ready for dinner. As I kicked off my shoes I noticed a red light that was flashing on the phone on the bedside table. I looked over and saw that Paul had noticed it too. We locked eyes and I noticed the tears forming in his eyes to match the ones forming in my own.
We both knew exactly what it meant but neither of us moved for almost ten minutes. We sat side by side on the corner of the bed holding hands and wiping our own tears away in total silence. We stared at each other, each of us willing the other to walk over to the phone and find out for sure.
We were hoping and praying that it was just a simple benign message from one of the tours that we had planned and not the call that we had been dreading but Paul eventually picked up the handset and punched in the numbers. I saw his face pale at the same time that I heard my Mum’s voice gently saying: “I’m sorry to have to spoil your trip but he’s gone”.
My Dad had passed away during the night and she had been unable to contact us to let us know so left a message instead. I was gutted and wracked with guilt.
Eventually we managed to clean ourselves up and made our way down to dinner where we quietly mingled with our tour group who were unaware of how much our world had just been turned on it’s head.
It was Saturday the 24th February 2008 and Paul and I were on a business retreat in Queenstown New Zealand through his work along with other co-workers and their wives.
Paul was the one who had planned the whole trip and organised all the activities – he was needed and we decided that we would keep our news to ourselves so as to not ruin everyone else’s holiday. We only had 2 days left and Mum told us to stay on because the funeral would take that long to plan anyway.
I barely slept a wink that night. I tossed and turned and my brain just would not stop. I worried about how I was going to tell the children. They adored their Granddad and Harley often asked if Granddad was over his cancer yet as though it were a common cold. Harley was 3 and not yet diagnosed and Lucas was still a baby. We made the decision not to tell Paul’s Mum who was staying with the children back home in Australia because somehow we instinctively knew that Harley was so sensitive to even the most subtle of changes in his caregivers.
I worried that the children would somehow blame me for abandoning them and I knew that I’d have to be extremely careful in how I chose to broach the subject with them once I returned home again. I remember looking over at Paul as he slept soundly and envied his restful state. I’d spent most of the night churning over all the different possible scenarios in my head trying desperately to figure out which direction to head in.
I opted not to go down to breakfast with the rest of the group the next morning, but told Paul that I needed to go for a walk to clear my head. It was a cool morning and I decided that the fresh brisk air would do me the world of good. I rugged up and stepped outside.
As I walked along I heard a guitar strumming softly in the distance and as I turned a corner I noticed a lady sitting on some stairs humming quietly along to her guitar and I was intrigued.
She looked up at me and smiled and it was then that I noticed that she was sitting in the doorway of one of the most beautiful and quaint old churches that I’ve ever seen. It was perfectly nestled into the streetscape and surrounded by gorgeous rolling snow-covered hills and I immediately felt an overwhelming peace and comfort wash over me . At that moment, I had perfect clarity of mind for the first time since receiving that call. A lady who introduced herself as Janet came and took me gently by the arm ushering me inside the building and placed a warm mug of tea in one of my hands and a freshly baked scone in the other. She sat me down and introduced me to a small gathering of people who were from England, Scotland and another Australian.
I soon found out that this church was not like any other church that I had ever been in but was more of a ministry to backpackers and travelers and the like. It was a café setting and an outreach to people who were hurting, lost and troubled.
I must have looked like a hobo wandering the streets at a ridiculous hour of the morning in a too big parka that belonged to my husband and dirty denim jeans and sneakers. But I’m sure that I fitted their usual clientele stereotype perfectly!
I was welcomed in, nurtured and somehow these people knew exactly what it was that I needed. I was hugged, listened to and valued and I hadn’t told a single person that I’d lost my Dad only hours earlier.
I stayed a while chatting and sipping my tea until gradually we all started to leave one by one. As I got up to leave myself, I was hugged by several people and was handed a bible (which I still have) with an inscription inside the front cover that reads: ‘Blessings from Vineyard Queenstown, be blessed in Christ’s name’.
Every time I look at this bible now, I am reminded of how God reached out to me in one of my most painful moments. It is a constant reminder that He will always provide me with just what I need exactly when I need it. This tiny little non-denominational and non-confrontational welcoming church serves as a constant memory of God’s grace and mercy and is a promise that He will always equip me to deal with the children that he has blessed me with.
He gives me the grace I need to face challenges that my human mind is baffled by. He provides a way out when things look hopeless and He promises that He will never leave or forsake me regardless of how ridiculous life’s circumstances may appear at the time. I don’t believe that this amazing experience was just merely a co-incidence. I truly believe that God met me in my darkest hour and that He provided just what I needed at that time. This chance encounter was all in HIS perfect timing. I was meant to walk past that church that February morning just as I was meant to be blessed with my amazing though challenging children.
Everything is in His perfect plan whether I understand it or not.
Little did I realise at the time that losing my Dad would be the beginning of a very long chain of events that have all helped to shape me into the kind of mother that my children need.
Imperfect by the world’s standards but perfect for what God has in His master plan.