This story is by Anna P. Wright and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
…On December 31st, 1999 New Zealand will greet the year 2000 ahead of the rest of the world and will celebrate the heralding in of the new millennium.
For Canterbury, the year 2000 is historically a significant year: celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Canterbury province, the 160th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by Ngai Tahu and the 250th year of Ngai Tahu settlement in the region. New Year’s Eve 1999 will be a particularly significant occasion for the greater Christchurch community…. (Excerpt from authors Rae Knutson and Michael Braithwaite: Turning Point 2000).
Monday 12th July 2021
Friday 31st December 1999, Christchurch, Canterbury, Aotearoa New Zealand was 7,500 days ago today. These are the facts behind the truth of the vapour that represents my life. Why was I even in Christchurch on the cusp of this new year, century, and millennium? I remember the events of this once in 13.333 lifetimes occurrence as if it was yesterday. And how the culmination of a minute string of insignificant acts equates to a miracle.
It was three days before New Year’s Eve and my estranged husband ordered me away from the family home. He was a narcissist, but I loved him deeply. I was to spend the New Year, new century, and new millennium elsewhere. Devastation was the underwhelming flood of emotion I drowned in as the tidal wave of shock hit me. I was going to be separated from my three children. I felt truly lost.
A good friend who lived in Christchurch, of Ngai Tahu descent, asked me to stay with her and her daughter who was aged between my middle child and my last born. I accepted the invitation. I was living in Tauranga at the time, a city in the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. The family home was in a town named Bethlehem (where great futures start). The trip was going to take a 14-hour drive including a ferry sailing to reach the South Island.
I had only driven one kilometre from home when I saw the most spectacular double rainbow. Nature’s display caused me to stop and catch my breath. While my brain played catch up with my heart, the promise of the covenant reminded me. I still have the photographs. I can count the moment to moment passing of time. Ride the waves of a grief-struck heart. Although shattered into a million pieces, it would eventually heal. The travel wasn’t memorable. Life was a fog.
New Year’s Eve preparations included best hat, jacket, favourite scarf, handbag, and shoes. Hair and makeup detailed to make the best of myself. Worthy of photos and capturing the chronology of this altered state of reality for me. I was courageous enough to put on a brave face. But feeling intrinsically fractured in the essence of my being.
The trip to the city was uneventful. Trying to photograph the countdown clock with 33 minutes 33 seconds to go while standing in front of it, proved to be impossible. We were outside the Millennium Hotel in the city centre and an idea other’s had in mind also.
We made our way to Hagley Park where the entertainment and celebrations were being held. Dave Dobbyn, one of New Zealand’s greatest music icons, and a new Christian, was the headliner for the whole event. Being a great fan, I was looking forward to the show. The strategic seating choice for myself, my friend and her daughter had to be near the stage. I felt glamourous considering the circumstances, and it was confirmed by a group of young adults sitting nearby. “Hey lady, are you famous?” If only, I thought to myself. “No, I’m here to enjoy the celebrations along with everyone else.” A little chit-chat continued back and forth, and then the music filled the still night’s air all around us. I found a gap at the fence line and immediately took my place with nothing between me and the stage except the Television One camera, cameraman, presenter and his microphone. He was Rob Harley, a devout Christian. And then it happened. The Ancient of Days, The Great I Am, The Holy One, prompted Rob to approach me. “Would you like to usher in the new millennium at midnight by wishing New Zealand a happy new year?” To my surprise I gave him an emphatic yes!
Like flies to ointment, everyone around became my new best friends. I even had ones telling me it’s not just about me, they can all be on national television. If I thought I was special, it was short lived. This had been a divine appointment to offer celebratory love to Aotearoa New Zealand. And I did. “HAPPY NEW YEAR AND MILLENNIUM AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND. JESUS LOVES YOU AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU.” Done.
The evening plans were to continue with an early boat cruise off Akaroa to sail out on the ocean for several kilometres so we would be a part of the group from the South Pacific horizon to be among the first in the world to see the sunrise at the dawn of the new millennium. Then eat breakfast and swim with the dolphins on our way back to the Akaroa harbour. It was surreal. I felt like I was living inside a painting like ‘Impression Sunrise’ by Claude Monet. In the distance and looking back towards the hills, car headlights were meandering around the winding roads to reach as far towards the horizon as they could. We had the upper hand of unrestricted access to sail into the sunrise as far as we wanted to. Swimming with dolphins is a great idea on any given day, but on the cusp of a new millennium? Memorable for life. I was briefly alerted to the fact that the French came and claimed this small settlement and to this day all the Akaroa streets have French names. But the Treaty of Waitangi Partner is Britain. Would we all be speaking French now if the Tangata Whenua chose a different way?
SOUTH ISLAND TO NORTH ISLAND
It was difficult to take it all in. I was so raw inside, worn out and spent, life-sick and homesick for my babies. Still loving my estranged husband yet torn by the bittersweet reality we were heading for divorce. Somehow a relief also, from the emotional abuse of someone controlling. My brain hurt from the conscious effort not to go insane thinking about thinking and stopping myself from thinking too much. I was too invested in why I had to endure this path and convincing myself to cope even though I wasn’t.
I arrive back home again to trade places with my severed other half, my children’s Dad. He had agreed to leave once I had returned to the family home in Bethlehem. It felt like a lifetime ago since I had seen them. An epiphany dawned on me how crucial a Mother’s love is for her children, not only for them to be nurtured but also the satisfaction and fulfilment she receives.
The millennium miracle revealed itself in the innocent words of my son when he said, “Mum we were at Grandma’s for New Year’s Eve because Dad went out with his friends. And Grandma let us stay up to watch the fireworks on TV at midnight. We saw you on TV Mum.” In an instant I was enveloped in a giant cotton ball of God’s love so deep I could barely speak. The joy that chirped from each of my children as they shared how awesome it was for them to see their Mum on the television. And in front of all New Zealand, celebrating the new millennium. It was special beyond description. It also reminds me how much the little details of life are significant when an all-powerful, loving, faithful Heavenly Father can unite the bond of a mother’s essence to her separated children through a television screen. New Year celebrations are difficult sometimes as a big reminder that I’m alone, but not lonely. And the anniversary of the millennium miracle that’s a once in my lifetime perfect string of circumstances. And I’m grateful.
Life is beautiful despite the sorrow wrapped up in pain
I can take great delight to bask in the sun
But I grow and mature in the pouring rain
Like a well-worn rug are the tracks of my setbacks and stress
But three steps forward, one step back is still progress
As I grapple to anchor faith, hope, and love
The source of all healing comes from Heaven above
I can try all I may in the vanity of the flesh
But only the Lord creates everyday afresh
So, I keep on keeping on each day overcoming
But only the Lord moulds the person I’m becoming
When I choose His wisdom and surrender to His will
I can know that He is God by remaining still.