Two weeks after Paara Ravepitomaki’s wife Tara’atua had passed away in 2012, Vaine Noo-Sanatorium, a mutual friend of theirs, had a dream.
“We were good friends, we talked a lot and liked to laugh,” recalls Vaine, who lived in Avarua, Rarotonga before moving to Auckland.
“After Tara’atua passed away, I had a dream and heard her voice. She was asking me to look after her husband.”
Earlier, Vaine’s husband had died. She then met Paara (from Aitutaki) and Tara’atua at a group picnic. They hit it off immediately, which Paara attributes to their mutual love of Cook Islands music.
“Music is in the blood of all Cook Islanders,” says Paara.
“Vaine plays the ukulele, I play the guitar and we both love to sing and enjoy ourselves.”
Their singing is a highlight of the Fia Ola Cook Islands gatherings at Pacific Homecare. They say they feel special to be part of a Pacific-run and owned organisation and say Cook Islands Fia Ola is always a highlight.
“They not only look after us in our homes, but help bring us here for music and friendship,” says Paara.
The Fia Ola gatherings cemented the friendship that led to the eventual marriage of Paara and Vaine Ravepitomaki on March 26 this year in Otara.
The companionship and laughter they share is a far cry from the challenges they’ve had to face, which brought them to New Zealand.
As a young girl, Vaine recalls being constantly hit on the head with a big pot by her grandmother. It affected her eyesight, which deteriorated to such an extent she could barely see.
In 1998, the mother of five was sent to New Zealand to see if an operation could restore her sight. But the long-term damage was so severe, nothing could be done.
The health system in the Cook Islands also struggled to cope with Paara, a father of seven, who had diabetes and came to New Zealand for treatment in 2004. The mobility in his legs are now severely restricted, and he’s grateful to have Vaine by his side.
“Vaine’s eyes are not good,” Paara says, “but she does very, very well with her cooking and cleaning and ironing.”
“When she started coming over and helping me out I said to her, ‘I love you and I’m going to marry you’.”
Vaine had no hesitation in saying yes.
“He has sick legs and I know when he is struggling,” she says.
“So sometimes, when we’ve had breakfast and cleaned up, I’ll say, ‘Hey, get your guitar and I’ll get my ukulele and we’ll have a sing along’. It makes us both feel better.”