Dr Ilaitia Delasau and Irene Kelemete
Dr Ilaitia Delasau and Irene Kelemete were married on April 22 at St Mary's in the City, Christchurch. Ilaitia, a Fijian was brought up Methodist in Fiji, and Irene, Samoan, comes from a very devout Catholic family. Both Ilaitia and Irene have attended services at Glenaven over a period of years, and they have been present for many of the high moments in the life of that congregation. Both have graduated during that time, he as a doctor and she as a dentist, and both now practice in Invercargill. Many people in our parish rejoice with them in their marriage.
Many of are aware of the unwavering support of Malcolm Gould and Euan Thomson for them both, especially for Ilaitia in the long and demanding journey towards graduation. Malcolm was fittingly honoured at the wedding, and gave a most moving speech at the reception. We thought it was worth tacking to our website as a human testimony to a love that has not counted the cost . .
It is very human and fascinating to ponder on the What Ifs in our lives. What if we had done so and so, or sometimes scarily, what if we hadn't? Because we did is the other side of the coin. Because we made a decision to do something, this is or that is the result. Today is one of those significant because days. For Irene and Ilaitia because they love each other and have taken the biggest decision of their lives, and because we are here affirming their decision as family or friends. We will watch their life together unfold and remember this event because we chose to come.
Ilaitia is here in NZ because he was awarded a Fijian Govt.scholarship to study medicine in Dunedin and that is where eventually he met Irene who was studying dentistry. Euan and I met Ilaitia because he obeyed his Dad. What if he hadn't been brought up to honour and obey his parents? A devout Methodist, Ratu Tevita's parting instruction to Ilaitia on leaving his home and comfort zone was to find his church family in NZ . In less than 24 hrs. of arriving in Dunedin he had done just that and at a very small Methodist church "Glenaven" in North East Valley, our relationship began. On a sunny Dunedin morning bright-eyed and brimming over with the anticipation of studying medicine and an hour early for the service, we met Ratu Ilaitia Delasau. (That was surely the last time in his life he was early for anything!). Dressed in his Sunday-best Sulu with his Fijian Bible and a Diary for l997 - long, elegant surgeon's fingers holding poised pen dying to begin the addresses page. Down went our names and phone number in the most precise and perfect handwriting. It was no surprise to Ratu Tevita and Adi Akisi back in Fiji to learn he had found his family; they had prayed and never mind that the answer happened to be two guys. Through them he had Kiwi grand-parents, uncles, aunts and lots of cousins.
There was no question that we were much loved new members of this large family. A relationship that became so close, it had to be defined. This was difficult. Ilaitia would introduce us as his uncles which caused quite a few frowns and questioning looks. The Fijians have an expression Talai which means "little uncle" and that satisfied anyone who understands Fijian. The importance of relationships is paramount in Fiji -cousin bros. aunties and uncles stretching to all sorts of distant relationships. Ilaitia once tried to explain how anyone in Fiji can claim a relationship to any stranger through either the Mother's or the Father's line. Eventually Kiwi Dads became the accepted title, one we proudly hold. To be anyone's Dad for us up to this point had never been a what if!
We have just celebrated the season of Easter. Nine years ago only a few short weeks after he had arrived, Ilaitia might have been facing a lonely Easter in an empty student Hall of Residence. Euan and I planned to go to Mt. Cook for a change of scene and invited Ilaitia to join us. He was wonderful company, very quick on the uptake with such a keen sense of humour and of the absurd. It was very moving when he broke into singing in Fijian as we trekked. They were old familiar hymn tunes from our childhood.. We loved and cared for him from that weekend on. He was very homesick and we knew from the start that his parents and family back in Fiji were the most important people in the world. He was very caring, unselfish, obviously lovingly brought up in a Christian home with very strongly instilled values. They gave him tapes reminding him of this heritage and he listened to them for hours. He owes everything to loving parents.
Mt. Cook was his first experience of snowy mountains, crisp cold nights, and staying in a chalet. On one of our excursions over the swing bridges and up the frosty tracks to the Hooker Glacier we met a young English couple who casually mentioned they had got so hot they had refreshed themselves in the glacial lake. To our absolute astonishment and consternation on our arrival at the lake, Ilaitia without warning stripped to his undies, dived in and swam out to a huge floating chunk of ice. Scrabbling, slipping and clawing onto the glassy top in his baseball cap and Jockeys he performed a Fijian spear dance - minus a spear. For a boy who was seriously deprived of photos and wanting lots to send home, we had some pretty amazing photos. But, what if Ilaitia had got cramp in the sub zero temperatures and had to be rescued. None of us might be here today! When he did make landfall his brown skin was bumper to bumper in Blue/black goosebumps. This poor Fijian body barely acclimatised to even Dunedin temperatures had without warning been suddenly plunged to an unthinkable degree. Perhaps it was a good thing and explains why he never whinged in the usual fashion about Dunedin or Invercargill temperatures! Everything he saw that Easter,everything he did, the magnificent scenery, the avalanches, the hotel restaurant and sauna, Euan's meals and this wonderful country of NZ; AWESOME. We soon became quite tired of this adjective, but later glad that "Cool" wasn't yet in vogue and of course forgave him completely once he started writing to us as Dear Awesome Uncles.
On subsequent trips with us Ilaitia saw most of N.Z. He bungy jumped - awesome, but where can I do a bigger one? Visited Te Papa, the Sky Tower (fortunately before their bungy jump) marvelled at Rotorua and the Coromandel, stayed with our relatives and friends.
As Kiwi Dads we had quite responsible roles over the next 7 years standing in for Mum and Dad back home in Rewasau. In Dunedin we had to worry about girls, alcohol, fancy dress costumes, formal gear for Student balls, issues of sport on Sundays, broken bones, torn tendons, forgotten passports (thanks for your emergency hospitality Glenda and Norman). We had to break sad news of deaths and glad news of births from Fiji. Driving lessons were had in our little manual Honda Civic, then came the never to be forgotten confession (whispered to me) that while Euan and I were out, he had taken our more powerful bigger car over the motorway into Dunedin to go to the gym. No road code tests, provisional licence, insurance, or L plates for this boy! He could do anything - awesome! Flabbergasted, my what ifs came thick and fast, the biggest being WHAT IF Euan found out. We agreed we'd wait a couple of weeks to break the news because it wouldn't seem so wicked so long after the event.
Euan cooked, cleaned, washed and ironed for this boy who loved clothes and changed them very frequently. I drove him to lectures. On the frequent occasions Ilaitia lived with us at Waitati I also drove the study at our dining table - well into the small hours with classical music to soothe our brains. I never once found this arduous, it was strangely exhilarating learning with him the most amazing workings of the human body. It was quite appropriate to be exclaiming AWESOME. I always called him Doctor so that he could get used to the idea and through the 7 years of study we spent hours role playing as doctor and patient with hilarious made-up instant scripts. These late night sessions ended with a hot Milo and for the starving student, whatever food was left over in the fridge (probably something Euan had earmarked for another meal). An exhausted brain, a sense of satisfaction and a hot electric blanket led to very deep sleeps which were almost impossible to break - no change there I believe Irene.
It was an awsome day when Ilaitia graduated as a Doctor, and as they say the rest is history. No-one could be more proud than his Fijian family and the Kiwi Dads.
His success was built on his schooling and preparation in Fiji - because this boy had worked hard, and all his life his personality and keeness has attracted the right people to mentor him. Reading his CV which contains all his school reports from the beginning was such a delight. The Teachers' comments were always positive and affirming, statements like "I have adored teaching this boy". What parent could ask for anything more? Because of the scholarships won leading to the prestigous Methodist-founded Queen Victoria School, because of the line of adoring teachers and mentors, because of the fact that he came to NZ to study, we are all here today celebrating Ilaitia and Irene's marriage.
Even Kiwi Dads have to worry about their son's choice of partner and the what-ifs loom very large. Four years ago we met the beautiful Irene Felicity Kelemete and later her lovely family. Irene proved to have an A to Z list of virtues; awesome, brainy, capable, dedicated, enthusiastic, faithful, gorgeous, happy................ I'd better stop, but what better place than happy? Felicity to quote the dictionary; Being happy, intense happiness, a blessing, how appropriate!
I know the Delasau and Kelemete families are very happy because they have today been united and they are now officially mothers and fathers in law, brothers and sisters in law, cousin bros. Aunties, Uncles, relations galore. It must follow if we are Ilaitia's Kiwi Dads, then we are Irene's too and we couldn't be happier about that. What a handsome couple! In their genetic mix of Fijian, Samoan, German, and French shouldn't there be a little bit of awesome Kiwi? The what-ifs and the becauses of their future together are going to provide Euan and me with all the excitement and interest we could cope with in our old age! At this stage all the what-ifs are in the future but because our paths once crossed we are part of the story of these very special newly weds - AWESOME!