I feel I have been part of a sequence of events that although just coincidence, is noteworthy because the alignment of the circumstances lead me to have a wonderful and memorable encounter in the town of Whangarei in New Zealand.
On Thursday 28th January 2010 my daughter asked me to visit her in the North Island of New Zealand. I purchased an air ticket online and having completed the booking I followed my usual habit of visiting various blog friends. I read this story posted by Slamdunk on that same day.
The posted story
“In 1993, Michael and Judith Sleavin, originally from Tacoma, Washington, along with their two young children, set sail on a dream trip around the world. The family voyage was expected to take five years aboard their 47-foot boat, the Melinda Lee. Three years into their journey tragedy struck. On November 24, 1995 at 2 am, a large South Korean cargo ship loaded with timber and steel, altered its course without warning and crushed the Sleavin’s boat near the coast of New Zealand.
In a few brief moments, the family’s vessel sunk into the darkness-—carrying their nine-year old son Ben to his death. The mother, Judith, received a near fatal head injury and lost feeling in her body from the waist down. Father Michael was able to begin inflating a small dinghy, and help Judith and seven-year old daughter Annie aboard before the icy ocean water enveloped them. The panicked family yelled at the South Korean vessel for help, but, reportedly, instead of assisting the injured three, the large commercial vessel quickly sailed from the scene. It was thought that the crew was afraid of the consequences of the collision, and as a result, they decided not to notify anyone.
Hours later, the group struggled to stay afloat in the partially inflated raft. Several times, the trio was flipped into the water, but each instance, Michael was able to regroup everyone at the craft. Finally, a rogue wave crashed into the family, knocking their little Annie away from the boat. Michael jumped into the rough ocean in an effort to save his daughter, but both drowned.
Judith’s inspirational tale of 44 hours of survival—-alone in a sinking raft, suffering hypothermia, with limited mobility and a brain injury—-is told in a book released in 2009 entitled Ten Degrees of Reckoning “
I was unaware of this story but like many others who saw the posting I was moved by it and found it difficult to get the tragic images out of my mind. I thought Judith Sleavin must be an extraordinary woman.
Judith Sleavin now lives in New Zealand in the town of Whangarei on the North Island and is the Owner/Managing Director of a business involving flame worked glass beads. She also sells Venetian glass and associated paraphernalia for glass artists. Her designs of beaded jewellery incorporate the dramatic tones and colours of the Pacific Ocean and are just beautiful.
How do I know that the jewellery designed by Judith Sleavin is beautiful? Well I am in the Annie Rose gallery and gift shop in the Town Basin of Whangarei and I’m standing in front of the showcase containing the display of the ‘Ten Degrees of Reckoning’ borosilicate pendants.
It is just after midday on Tuesday the 2nd of February 2010 and at that moment Judith Sleavin walks into the gallery. She had come to her shop to meet with my self and a friend Catherine Wells from Auckland. We greet and introduce ourselves and talk about her jewellery and of course the tragedy. She is gracious and joyful and proceeds to show us around her purpose-built studio and gallery and the stunning glass bead collection. She was also kind enough to give us a flame working demonstration. Judith used an Italian glass rod and glass torch to create a beautiful glass bead of opaque and coloured glass.
In general, I think I am a happy person. I love my life, and most of the time I feel fortunate. Judith Sleavin reminded me that each of us has the spirit to survive and as her poem in her book says “I promise to fill my life with love.” She does just that and I was lucky to have a little bit of that love rub off on me, thank you Judith.