The days at home disappeared quickly, with wonderful coffee dates, catch-ups and towards the end I even felt like I could possibly just slip back into life there without too much strife. Eventually I got used to the cold weather, or perhaps I got used to wearing so many more layers than I was used to, but I enjoyed the sunshine and the fresh breeze outside.
In the second last week at home my Grandma passed away and so Mum and Dad headed over to New Zealand for the funeral and all the things that need to be dealt with at the passing of a family member. I was so glad I’d had the opportunity to see Grandma and say goodbye to her. Our visit there was truly timed by God!
During the week that my parents were away I had planned to spend a week at my friend’s house while her husband was away, to help look after her two little girls and to spend time with her. I have been close with this friend since we were at university, single and free and happiest when sitting in the sunshine drinking hot water and chatting, than anywhere else.
First of all, she and her wonderful husband were married while I was on the Africa Mercy in 2009 and I flew home for 5 days to be a part of their wedding celebrations. I loved that special time with her and even though we were miles apart, we still managed to connect fairly regularly, never losing our strong bond of friendship.
After I returned home for 12 months, our friendship had moved from first confidant to second after her husband and that took some getting used to, but I understood why. The hard thing was, I hadn’t changed and could still offer the same friendship, but her’s had changed. Maybe you have experienced that too in your friendships. As time moves on and some friends marry, you can be over the moon happy for them, but it does mean a change in friendship, which is something to get used to.
The following year after I had returned home and settled in, they fell pregnant and of course with that came so much excitement, but another change. I was heading to the ship for another year (which quickly became two years and now it’s almost undetermined because it’s already been 2 ½ and I’m still here!) and facing the challenges of leaving my safe spot and the two of them were facing a lifetime of parenthood and the joys and challenges that children bring. We faced two opposite life-changing seasons, which could have been the separating of us, but it wasn’t.
I left for the ship 6 weeks after her little girl was born and although I was excited for my adventures, I was so sad for all those moments I would miss out on, not being around this beautiful baby whom I already loved.
Since I’ve been on the ship another beautiful baby girl was born to their family and all my ship friends knew about it. I told everyone when I knew she was in labour and then waited impatiently for the birth news and then showed the newborn photos to anyone who would look. I am a very proud non-family-member aunty!
So, after all this time, I was able to live in their house, sleeping on the bunk bed above the oldest. I soaked in the presence of these delightful girls. Their individual looks and personalities, sparkling in their home environment. They were not always their sparkliest, but they were quick to bounce back. I loved the cuddles and kisses, craft time and sandpit time, story and play time. I loved hearing the giggles and laughter, the interactions between mummy and daughters. I loved the words and sentences used by this adorable almost 3 year old. While mum was out one day with the youngest, I ate lunch with the other, got ready for nap time and read her a story before tucking her in. Her sweet little face and soft lips kissed my cheek, hands wrapped around my neck, as I said, have a nice sleep. She lay quietly, obediently, as she’d learnt, to rest. I walked out of her bedroom, with a melted heart, after nothing life-changing had been said, just simple actions had shown me love.
Each day was full of routine and I learnt how to help out my friend, doing whatever she needed and when the children were sleeping we chatted, covering every subject known to man, from the light-hearted to the deepest places.
When the week came to an end, I walked away wanting more, with a thirst for that life more than ever before. I wish desperately that I didn’t live so far away because I miss out on seeing the girls grow up and loving them through every stage. I have loved many babies and children as they have grown up, but to be so close to a dear friend’s children and to hear them call your name a thousand times a day asking you to play with them and spend time with them and wondering where you have gone to when you’re not there. It filled my heart with a special love that I have never known, until now. I will treasure those memories and tuck them away safely, because now I’m back on the ship and already sailing to Congo, for new adventures.