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Home is where the heart isDecember 15, 2015
Our return to Paradise couldn't have been sweeter. Dear friends greeted us in Rarotonga with fragrant gardenias from their garden and took us to breakfast at Salsa's. The taste of Eggs Benedict with rokau was a bit of heaven. Later that day, we stepped off the plane in Aitutaki and received many hugs and kisses. Our new landlord said of the friends who came to greet us laden with eis , "It's like the prime minister has arrived!" We brought back many bags this time, having made a final hunt through our few stored belongings in Canada for the treasures that mean the most to us - some art, a favorite cup, a rather heavy gift sculpture, yet we had no trouble sailing through security and customs in three countries. It felt like a small miracle. We stood for the first time on our new deck overlooking the turquoise lagoon, with waves breaking on the reef, and had a sacred moment taking in the view, at which point a bright rainbow appeared! Our garden is full of coconut and banana palms, flamboyant (flame) trees, papaya, lacy ferns, red and yellow varieties of Birds of Paradise, gardenias, yellow, red and pink hibiscus, and many other lovely plants and flowers. Our reunion with our four year old granddaughter was joyful indeed, and last evening, as Dan was taking his first sunset photos on the beach, she and I played in the warm lagoon once again. As we started making the circuit of shops, people stopped on the road to welcome us home.
A close friend who had stored our belongings arranged for a few strong men to truck them over, and now there are piles around the house to be sorted. However, the sorting will have to wait. No sooner did we step foot on this island than we were swept back into island life. Opportunities for service arose for us both. I was honored to be invited to present an Excellence in Virtues award at the Araura College prize-giving ceremony. Head boy Teariki Mahitu led guests into the hall, wearing a high head dress and traditional costume, sounding powerful and waving his spear, then doing an amazing welcome dance. I was so happy to see some of the students in my recent virtues group awarded for their pioneering work in creating a "green" approach to waste management as the Envirosquad. Head girl, Lilian Temanu, received one award after another . As one of the six speakers of the morning, Lili gave a deeply moving talk, tearfully sharing that her mother took special pride in Lili's successes because she herself had been unable to pursue an academic path. One of Lili's awards was as the most promising future leader. During the ceremony, she and Teariki as well as several other students showed genuine leadership -- a promising ideal for the future of these islands.
One of the gifts of life here is that of the loving touch, which goes on constantly. I overheard one senior student, about to leave Araura, say to a younger one as she held her in her arms, "I'm going to hug you all day." This time on our trip back to North America, we sensed we were truly saying goodbye. As we stood at my brother John's grave in British Columbia Canada, where we had lived for more than 25 years, I noticed that others had, as promised, been tending it beautifully. I will always hold him in my heart and soul, and continue to pray for him, but that was probably our last prayer at his graveside. We realized that we have truly turned the page. Our hearts have taken up residence in the Cook Islands, and home is where the heart is. As I listened to the award winning young drummers at Araura, the music resonated in my soul. It's time to take off our shoes, for we are truly standing on our Holy ground.