Monday and Tuesday were my last days in the office. Between the two of us, Val and I got all of the Church College records into the computer. Val normally works half days, but Monday she stayed well into the afternoon, I think mostly because she knew how much I wanted to get everything in the catalog before I left. Sister Garry will need to finalize our last entries, so there is still a bit more to do on the Church College collection. But it feels wonderful to have had a body of work to do and largely completed it before I left for home.
I also spent time going through some last-minute things with Sister Garry. She and Elder Garry will do a great job. It is nice to know that the project I care about will be left in good hands.
Tuesday Vic and Rangi Parker returned from a trip to the Hawkes Bay area where they presented a fireside over the weekend and also brought back some artifacts that were donated from that area. Rangi has a reputation throughout the Church in New Zealand as the person who has collected historical stories and artifacts. Because of this often people are willing to share with her in ways that they would not with anyone else. Though the museum and records center will house and display materials from all over the Pacific, the seedbed for the collection is the result of Vic and Rangi’s efforts for over 30 years.
Many in the office gave me going away remembrances, and also signed a big card. I appreciate so much this outpouring of love.
Tying Up Loose Ends
The office wanted to have a farewell outing for me, and we scheduled it for Monday evening. I suggested that we go to the Chartwell mall for dinner—the food court there is our favorite. Afterwards we were going to go to the Parkers and watch a movie. However, the Parkers called in the afternoon to let us know that they wouldn’t be home until late, so we enjoyed a nice dinner at the mall and called it an evening. Actually, this worked out better for me, giving me a little more time to organize for my return home.
Tuesday evening Joyce Wheadon took me to dinner. She enjoyed a nice steak, and I had a lovely lamb dish, knowing it was probably the last meal like that I would have in New Zealand. I have really enjoyed the lamb here and know it not as plentiful or as reasonably priced at home. Joyce has become a dear friend, and I hope she will come to the states and visit me.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday completing final tasks before leaving Hamilton. In addition to thoroughly cleaning my apartment, I gave away my food and other household items I had purchased to other missionaries, returned things I had borrowed, mailed a box home, and had the car cleaned. On Wednesday I also had an exit interview with my mission president Jeffrey Cummings. Because our project falls more under the jurisdiction of the Area Presidency than the mission, I have had little contact with President Cummings since he came in July. But we had a lovely visit, and I appreciated his taking the time to meet with me.
I had considered skipping my weekly temple visit because I had a lot to do, but decided that everything would work out more smoothly if I took the time to go. This proved to be the case. I had such a sweet feeling of peace throughout the session. What a privilege it has been to live literally within the shadow of the temple. I am also indebted to Elder McGregor who has done the ordinance work for many of our male ancestors. I left him with several cards and know he will get them done in the next few weeks.
Thursday I washed linens and did the final cleaning of my apartment. It was a very comfortable place to live, other than being cold in the winter, and I learned how to adjust to that.
I have learned in my international travels that it is much better to be near the airport the night before departure, so I booked a room at the hotel directly across the street from the Auckland airport for Friday night. I had planned to stay with Vic and Rangi in their guest apartment Thursday night and then drive with the Olsens to Auckland on Friday. However, Rangi came down with a nasty flu bug that had been going around the office, and I felt I couldn’t take the chance of getting exposed just prior to coming home. Elder and Sister Garry offered to let me stay in their spare bedroom. I was sorry not to spend the final time with Parkers but had a great visit with the Garrys and appreciated their hospitality.
Friday morning the Olsens and I headed to Auckland. We stopped at the area office so Randy could do some business he had, then headed to Devonport, a seaside town that is across the bay from Auckland. We had intended to take a walking tour of this charming city, but since the weather was “iffy” we decided to take a one hour bus tour after lunch. We ate at a nice seafood restaurant—the fish chowder was the best part of the meal. The bus took us through the city, and we saw many charming old houses built out of kauri tree wood. Many of these homes have beautiful decorative features and all are on the historic preservation list because kaori trees take about 1,000 years to fully mature and are no longer harvested. The tour then took us to North Head, an inactive volcano rising above the city, from which we had great views of Auckland city, Waitemata Harbour (Auckland’s port), Rangitoto Island (an icon of Auckland city), and scenes of the bay. North Head served at one time as a major military watchpoint for the area.
After the bus tour Margaret and I took the ferry from Devonport to Auckland, and Randy drove the car to meet us. We ate dinner at a mall in Auckland, then decided to go to a suburb to see a movie we had missed in Hamilton. I was pretty tired from all the work involved in leaving Hamilton, so it was nice to sit for a while. Randy and Margaret then dropped me off at my hotel. I will miss these wonderful people and am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with them. They are dedicated souls and will always be dear friends.
Although it was about a 12 hour flight from Auckland to Los Angeles and then another hour and a half to Salt Lake, the flights weren’t bad. Having traveled for 25+ hours in going from New Zealand to Germany in June has changed my perspective on long flights. My biggest headache was that our landing in Los Angeles was delayed almost an hour due to fog, so I was really hustling to get my connecting flight to Salt Lake. I was running down the concourse and waving at the attendant as she announced my name and the final boarding call. I was the last one on the plane. As I went to my seat I saw a familiar face, but couldn’t place where I knew the gentleman who greeted me kindly. We chatted a bit, then I apologized and said he needed to tell me how I knew him. It turns out he didn’t know me but was friendly because he knew from my missionary name tag that I was going home. But I knew him—he was Phillip Barlow, a professor specializing in Utah history at Utah State University. I have heard him speak before, so that is why he looked familiar. After we made this connection we mentioned several mutual friends and had a nice chat.
Getting off the plane and seeing all the family was a thrill. Since I arrived just before noon, my daughter Deborah had organized a little lunch at her home, so most of the family headed there. We had a great visit, and it was so fun to be together. Mike came to my home later in the afternoon. We watched the end of the BYU football game. I was getting really sleepy, so after Mike left I moved around a lot to stay awake until my normal bedtime. I’ve found with changing time zones that the easiest way to get over jet lag is to immediately get on the schedule of the time zone I’m in.
Saturday afternoon I also met with my stake president to be released from my mission. We had a great visit. President Paul Chamberlain was called last May. He served on the high council with Bob, so I knew him from past association.
Our church schedule is late this year, beginning at 1:00 pm. It was nice to sleep in a bit and great to see all my friends at church.
In his interview President Chamberlain asked me how I had grown during my mission. I think my greatest growth has occurred from my personal study of the life of the Savior. Gaining greater understanding of the context of His life and His earthly mission has made Him even more real to me. I know He lives. I know He fulfilled His Father’s plan to come to earth, receive a mortal body, teach us through precept and example, and perform His great atoning sacrifice. Because of Him we can repent, improve, and ultimately live again in His and our Father’s presence along with our loved ones we have known here and our ancestors who have preceded us. I know that the Lord restored the fullness of the gospel in these latter days through Joseph Smith, and that we are led today by a living prophet and apostles. I am grateful for the richness of our gospel and grateful for the opportunity I have had during the past year to play a little role in helping to build His kingdom.
Thanks to all of my family and friends for your love and support. I feel so richly blessed by the great people who are part of my life. May the Lord’s choicest blessings be with each and every one of you.
Mom, Grandma, Marilyn
Artifacts from the Parker’s trip:
Sister Foster and Peti Transfield holding the card signed by everyone in the office. Peti is a volunteer who has done marvelous work in organizing and distributing the huge collection of trophies we received when the Church College closed:
Sister Jocelyn Garry taking over the computer station:
The temple at dusk–kind of blurry because my camera doesn’t capture far-away images very well:
Last names to the temple:
Lunch with the Olsens in Devonport:
Old Devonport houses made out of kauri wood:
Views from North Head (inactive volcano):
Pohutukawa tree–will be blooming in red at Christmas:
Ferry ride across bay to Auckland:
Salt Lake airport–grandchildren waiting for luggage:
Family at the airport:
Family at Deborah’s home:
Two youngest grandchildren:
Mike and his new kitty:
Notes left at my home by my Philadelphia grandchildren: