At first I felt lost. I sat there holding my six month old upon learning the news that two blocks away, my husband was killed instantly in a car accident. How does one face life after such a tragedy? I have had the gift of finding the answers to those questions for myself over the past 15 years. The gifts have come in an abundance I never imagined.
That moment in which my entire life changed within seconds will forever for me be frozen in time. There is no magic therapy to make the moment seem less tragic. There is embracing life and moving forward only now. There is breathing. There is daybreak. There is God.
I have been asked by many, after my many long blog like posts I make on Facebook to write or begin a blog. I have written so many blogs, and novels, all lost in stacks of paper and computer files. My documents and papers never seem to connect. Even so, my writing seems to continue, like a voice that will not keep my hands still. These automated perfect looking documents and the process intimidates me quite a bit. Yet, I must write.
So, yes, at first I felt lost. I lived in a death-defying fog. I enjoyed my daughter every single minute that I was near her. I, like many of the people in our country tonight who have faced or are facing natural disasters, packed up and left. I left in the same way as someone who is dining and leaves their meal, allowing it to get cold. Unfortunately, sometimes one does not have the chance to finish what they anticipated enjoying.
Tonight, my mind is not so much on my daughter and mine’s loss, but on the huge storm off the coast of Florida. I have also heard of fires out west, devastation in Texas after the storm that hit Houston, flooding a huge area that I understand is larger than I knew before. I must admit as one watches these storms and such, I feel like I am before a firing squad with a large group to my left and right. Someone is going to get hit. Is it someone I know? Is it someone I will miss? Have I forgotten anyone? Will it be me? The odds are unlikely for me out of so many. Then, I feel that sickening relief that it was not my time, as I read projections. How does one deal with the knowledge of this relief? How can I be relieved when so many are facing so much danger and loss. The storm is in the ocean and she is heading for the US. Her size and strength labels Irma Category 5.
I was in Winn Dixie two days ago. I love going to the grocery store. I usually peruse the aisles and walk slowly. I like to imagine what I will be fixing for supper, or what shortcuts I might take to avoid effort. I enjoy seeing other people, and I love to see how many types of Cheez-its they have this week. I like to tally in my mind which grocery stores have the best coffee selection, and compare prices. I enjoy thinking about how organic milk in one store is 5.60 for a gallon, and 4.40 for a quart in another. I find all of that fascinating. Plus, I love food. Don’t even get me started on the pasta aisle. So many shapes, so little time, and I have only one pasta pot. Well, I walk in and immediately I feel as though I need to get focused. Everyone else looks so serious. There is no activity in the floral department. No one is buying special meats. People are stocking up on necessities. I feel as though I might need to be a part of this emotion I sense around me, like I am unaware of the impending doom. I felt it briefly when I hit the water selection. Every single bottle of water was gone. I, for just a moment, remembered Katrina and Ivan, and how the shelves were empty. I wondered if people knew something i did not know. I was in a hurry, as moms often are. I purchased the few items I needed and was out of there. What seemed a few minutes later, my friend phoned to tell me the gas pumps were running empty around town. People were filling up extra tanks. They were filling up their car’s gas tank plus extra tanks they kept at home. Doing so, contributes to the shortage for others, but nevertheless it is a tradition it seems. These events were days ago, and the hurricane is said to land somewhere near Miami by Saturday. It is Thursday night. We live in South Alabama. I personally felt it was very selfish of people to rush in before otehrs had a chance. It reminded me of when we evacuated to Birmingham from Mobile, and we planned on buying bread and water four hours north from home. We simply were trying to get out of harms way as fast as we could. The shelves were in short supply there as well.
My first response to this was anger, in both Birmingham many years ago, and in Fairhope two days ago. How can people buy more than they need at a time like this? They are afraid. This normal reaction only causes a chain reaction. The fear spreads, and people are human after all. I am human too, and I was mad.
I remember working in a school that just about everyone who knows me has heard me talk about. It was the hardest most wonderful job I ever had. I worked in a boarding school for difficult teens. What teen is not difficult? Yes, these kids often created situations in which I questioned my own sanity, but the ones I came to know were all great people in the works. I am so thankful for that time I had to be a part of their lives. Not a day goes by where I do not think about the school. Many kids were angry. I would have been angry too. Imagine waking up one morning and a guy is standing in your room. He is your escort. He tells you to pack up. You are going somewhere for a month. So, you pack up a large suitcase. You go out as the sun comes up, and this guy takes you from your home to this place in the middle of nowhere. You learn from your school therapist, me at the time, that you will be there a minimum of eighteen months, and you will not see your parents for three. I would be angry too.
Even so, once one started this job, one could not quit. These kids were depending on you. So, no matter how much I fought it inside, I stayed. Our school principal would give these inspirational speeches every Monday morning. Something he said stuck with me and I believe it until this day. Anger is always a result of a fear of loss. He was able to describe how every situation involving anger was a result of this fear. I always think about Star Wars when I think about that speech. Yet, I agree. Fear of loss is at the root of all anger, and we go to the grocery to deal with that feeling. We fill up gas tanks. Then, as we rush out of our homes with pictures in hands, our cats screaming from their crates as we load them in the hot car packed to the brim, we say goodbye. The life inside our homes, the feel of home, the place where we place our feet next to our spouses on the sofa and share, is now perhaps only a memory. You hear the words, items can be replaced, people cannot. Even so, the places we live, the communities we have built and the lives we lead, are at risk. Yet, we leave.
Why am I thinking about anger? I am thinking that our country has experienced a great deal of anger of late. As we see or experience anger in ourselves or in others, maybe we need to slow down briefly. If we realize that instead of pointing the finger, as I immediately felt the need to do two days ago, we need to reach out a hand to each other. I have found nothing diffuses my anger more quickly than listening to someone, for what is going on inside their heart, not necessarily their mind. This ability only comes from slowing ourselves down and our mouths in my case, to make eye contact, or hear their tone of voice, and notice how they move. One can tell so much by a person’s gait. In panic mode we are thinking of lists and to-dos, how to board our home, and such. We blow up more easily even as we try to stay calm. We get mad at our neighbors for buying all the water in Winn Dixie. Perhaps realizing we are all human, and we can only get through these storms together, is the way to face our fears. Because together, we can persevere. I could not do it without my friends and family, or my husband today. I could never be who I am without them. We share. We laugh. We cry. And, because of that, I think my best is more often seen than my worst. Thank goodness for their acceptance of me and all my flaws. Ironic how that acceptance is what brings out my best.
So, I am praying that we can whatever our nation faces in the following week, reach out with our hearts and minds to each other. I hope I can, and lets be there for one another.
Peace of Christ