As I rest my aching body at my desk, watching an agitated squirrel flick his bushy tail against the oak tree outside my window, I reflect on how different my life was a mere 72 hours ago—actually, the past week. And, I’ve learned a few important lessons.
Hurricane Irma was coming. She was roaring forth with a vengeance, announcing herself as a category five storm, with her sights specifically set on making a direct, targeted hit on my city.
Initially, “Irma” was predicted to venture further east, which would’ve brought more of a tropical storm to my area rather than a full-blown hurricane. So, my husband and I prepared for that. Fortunately, before the frenzy set in, we quietly began to obtain necessary supplies, food, and water to last several days without electricity if necessary. As time went on, however, folks were being lulled out of their slumber as weather predictions started to continually change . . . community chaos ensued. Our life in these past days became an onslaught of difficult decisions—one after another, all in anticipation of an oncoming, unpredictable force we had never experienced before.
Do we have enough plywood? How much water do you think we’ll need? Is our house strong enough? What needs to be packed up and put in a safe place? How do we need to help prepare our elderly parents? What about our kids?
The storm raged on with a track now destined to center our city, still at a category five strength. My thoughts were changing. Our house was strong, but what if trees hit the roof and create a hole for a fury of wind to gain entry? What potential projectiles do I need to remove throughout the inside of my home? Would our “safe room” be safe enough? Should I even box up important paperwork if there’s a good chance it may all be blown away? What do I wear for a hurricane? I mean, seriously, what clothing will best suit my practical needs should I end up with nothing after this ordeal? Should we leave town? And . . . was it even possible to do so? I was on an emotional roller-coaster and I wanted to get off.
The truth is, a category five hurricane brings certain, devastating destruction. I began telling friends and family how much I loved them, honestly not knowing if I’d ever see them again. I prayed for God to spare my life so I could be of service to others, and yet, also prayed not to have to live through the terror of the impending experience. A sobering text from a good friend stated, “If I don’t see you in a couple of days, I’ll meet you on the other side.” Irmageddon was coming.
I walked my dog on a sunny Saturday before feeder bands of torrential rain and fierce wind gusts would come, prepared to meet my maker.
Then, as prepared as possible . . . we waited.
In the process of “waiting”, I realized several things. My life-long habit of second-guessing myself became a detriment to acting on some ideas formed in my mind that may have made a significant difference in how we weathered the storm. I also discovered my occasional hesitancy to have a sometimes-difficult conversation with someone, assuming I know the outcome, serves no purpose. In fact, not “having the conversation” may indeed prove to be a game-changer, or in this case, possibly a life-changer. I also learned we all weather our storms differently. As Facebook exploded with outpourings of support as well as criticism, as the media provided a barrage of differing reports and opinions, often with the utmost sensationalism, and as others sheltering with us in our home processed what was about to occur in their own way, a small voice in my spirit whispered. You don’t completely know what someone is going through if you haven’t experienced it yourself—remember this.
As time passed on that designated evening, howling winds cradled my house. Branches snapped and fell with loud thuds outside our boarded windows. And my wise husband, Jeff did one of the best things he could ever do . . . he turned off the television. We spent time hugging, talking, laughing, and sometimes blinking back tears as Jeff quietly tracked the continuous radar from his phone, gently informing us periodically of what was happening.
We hopefully took note that the monster named Irma started to weaken as it traveled across our state. She showed signs of indecision regarding her definite track. Although she wreaked ruinous havoc in some areas of Florida, she approached us as a downgraded category two storm, and she had moved– approximately fifty wonderful miles east of us. The result, for us, brought widespread destruction of downed trees and power lines, along with extensive power outages, but . . . we survived.
Since Irma paid a visit, things are different. I am different. I’ve a new resolve for no more second-guessing. If my ideas fail, they fail—and if they succeed, well, won’t that be wonderful? From now on, I’ll be “having the hard conversation”, of which there are many of great importance in life. Finally, may I be increasingly aware that your story is not the same as my story. We all wade through our storms differently. I shall tread lightly.
I arch my aching back, sore from raking leaves and dragging tree limbs, as the spunky squirrel darted up the tree. I wonder where that little guy hunkered down for the storm? That will be one of my many questions for God one day.
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