The rain slowed to a light mist around 9:30am and we were eager to go back to our house to assess the damage. We parked at the end of the street and waded to our house. As we reached the front of our home, we were up to our thighs in water. I stood on my toes and we had a chat with our neighbor. The time came to go inside and my neighbor said, “are you sure you want to do that?” I said, “not really but we need to” so we waded to our front gate, I stood on the sand bags we had placed the day before and took in what had happened. Instantly overwhelmed and awestruck, the sobs started and did not wane until my sister arrived 30 minutes later.
As we pushed our front door open, water gushed out and we walked into our ominous and quiet home that only a day before held sounds of laughter, children and music. Now movements echoed as if floating in a cavern. It was dark and our personal items stood tall, bravely enduring their own demise. I went first to my son’s bedroom and a torrent of tears shook my body as all of his beautiful innocence floated around me. In my daughter’s room I saw her trunk of stuffies tipped over as her “friends” floated around it, some gave up and sunk to the bottom. I imagined her and her brother playing in it as they would often do, dumping out the stuffies and both climbing in to sit and giggle at eachother. I remember putting the letters to her name on it as a wooden “r” looked up at me from the water. Her books were soaked and ruined…so many times have we read the words in those wet books.
But a flood cannot take away words. Water cannot wash away memories and love. Nothing can take away the gratitude I have that my family is safe. The rest, while painful to see taken away, is just stuff. “It’s just stuff” has become my new mantra.
When I had exhausted the tears for the moment, I realized it was time to face the truth of what was happening and get to work. I began packing clothes, gathering valuables and memory books. I focused on getting items to pack our family for our Disney trip only 3 days away. While we considered not going or delaying our flight we realized we needed to go for our kids and ultimately for ourselves too.
My sister and her boyfriend arrived at our flooded home, consoled us and got to work. After an hour or so, I left with her to go check on my kids and regroup. Later, as I was buying food for us to have at my mom’s house, I was informed that my sister had rounded up a group of people to help and they had already begun what I call “Operation Salvage”. I was overcome and that is when the beauty of the situation began showing itself to me.
I returned from the store and headed back to the house with a new mindset: this will not bring me down. There were seven people ready to get to work. They had beer and happy attitudes. They did not make light of the situation yet lightened the heavy mood which was exactly what we needed. Before entering our home for the second time, we all stood in front of the house around a paddle board as if it were a meeting table before entering to take a moment to notice that it is people who matter, community and friends, love and gratitude. We went inside and everyone began gathering pictures off the wall, electronics, files and documents, clothes, toys, and medicines. We all moved around and quickly began hauling things out of the house, down the street and into trucks. It went on like this for a couple of hours until we had enough and had to leave for the day. A strange sense of calm came over me, likely in part due to lack of sleep, two beers and the support that surrounded me. Floating in my driveway and down my street to unload the last of our day’s haul, I knew everything would be okay. I felt an unexpected love coming not only from those around me but also from something beyond me, something greater that was showing me something I needed to learn.
There is a story I like about a man whose home floods and he is forced to the roof of his home. Rescuers come but he refuses them saying God will protect him. The rescuers leave but return later as the man is even higher on his roof as the waters rise. He refuses them again saying his God will save him. They come a third time and are again turned away. The man eventually drowns and as he enters the gates of heaven, he asks God why he did not protect him as he had been a devout believer and a loyal servant to which God replies, “I sent you three boats, why didn’t you take one?”
There are messages and lessons along our paths and I believe we must be open and awake to hear them, to learn them. This is a test and it is difficult but we will rise above for only Love endures.