At last, with Rob gone to bed, and goodbyes said to Susan, Tim and John, I was able to pack methodically, slowly and carefully--the way I probably do most things in life. I'm much more of a turtle than a hare!
I carefully stowed some precious treasures in my case, including a very old barometer that once hung in my great grandparents' barge, and my Oma Schipper's jewelry box made out of inlaid wood, with a quilted royal blue lining with golden threads that had once criss-crossed the blue quilting, but now mostly were broken and loose. In the lid is Oma's name, carved from ivory: "Kaatje."
When I'd finished packing, I still had one bag of things that wouldn't fit, and another bag with personal items of my own that I usually keep in Alvechurch ready for my visits. I hated to leave Rob with these bags, as his flat was getting fuller every day with "stuff" we just couldn't part with, but I had no choice.
I had spent my last British pounds on buying chips from the Tudor Rose Fish Bar for supper on Thursday. I thought that I should have saved a little English money for a cup of coffee at the airport while waiting for the plane! I decided that I would switch over the loose change I had left, from my own worn out wallet, into a brown, soft leather wallet that I had given Mum on one of her trips to Canada years ago. It was perfect and would remind me of her every time I used it. As I transferred my credit cars from the old wallet to new slots in the new, I noticed something blue tucked into the section for paper money. It was a five pound note! How we had missed it when going through Mum's things earlier, I don't know, but there it was, and it felt like she had given me a gift of a cup of coffee at the airport on her! I whispered thank you, with a smile!
My packing was finally done at around 2.30 a.m. and I then got ready for the journey ahead, freshening up with a last wash in Mum's bathroom and putting on fresh make up. By then it was 3.30 and I made a pot of coffee and decided to check email one last time. Little did I know that God had one more gift in store.
I found an email from an unfamiliar name: Andrew Powell. Here it is!
I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your dear mother Pieternella. Why I am finding you right at this point in time only God really knows. I was fiddling around with the words 'wemeldinge' and 'paauwe' and after 7 years or so of intermittent family tree research... I found you Belinda...my fourth cousin.
It did not twig that you were in the midst of grief and pain on the passing of your mum. I have some of that same blood running in my veins as you have.
My prayer is for God to be so real and close to you at this time. That you will see Jesus in the lives of those you meet over these next days and weeks...and the little coincidences are all designed and put there by God just for you...and your family. May even this email be of some comfort and blessing to you in some small way.
Love from me ...Andrew Paauwe (now Powell)
My father Tony and your mother Pieternella - 3rd cousins
My grandfather Anthonie and your grandmother Kaatje - 2nd cousins
My great grandfather Izaak and your great grandmother Adriana - 1st cousins
My great, great grandfather Cornelis and your Great great grandfather Adriaan - Brothers
OUR great great great grandparents...Pieter Paauwe and Sara de mul.
I looked at the smiling faces looking out at me from the photograph and felt wrapped around in love by a family far away that felt "sent" by God, right at that time. I don't think the timing was accidental. It felt as though Mum had been buried, but from the soil (from "down under") had sprung ten new family members who felt like kindred spirits.
Since then we have corresponded by email and exchanged other photographs. My great grandmother Adriana, who is Izaak's first cousin, resembles him closely! How awesome hey? I shake my head in wonder!
When Rob came down at just after 4.00 to drive me to the airport, he too, was amazed at both gifts--the one I found, and the one that found me.