Don’t Forget to Hope
June 26, 2016 | Posted in: Chronic Life
Maybe like me, you’ve seen your share of cloudy skies, or maybe you’ve seen firsthand the path of destruction a tornado leaves. You’ve stood on soggy ground, collecting muddy treasures as you fed your children a Salvation Army issued bologna sandwich.
I’m going to guess I was six years old when the tornado hit our home in Sikeston, Mo. I don’t remember the year. Although, just weeks ago my mom texted me to say it was the anniversary of the day. Something like twenty years. Which would make me currently twenty-six? Yes, that must have been it.
My mom was sitting in the orangy wood-covered chair facing the T.V., peeling potatoes we would not eat for dinner that night. We would not eat dinner that night at all. My older brother, Matt and I whined to go outside. “No, the weather man says there might be tornadoes out. We might go hide in the laundry room in a bit,” my mom said. Looking out the big picture window, Matt and I could see our neighbor friends playing in their front yard. This was utterly ridiculous. Our friends were playing outside and we were considering cowering in a laundry room? We voiced our opinion on the matter. “If their parents let them jump off of a bridge would you jump, too?” our mom countered. Probably, I thought. Bridge jumping actually sounded like a lot of fun.
Instead, just a few moments later my mom, Matt, my younger brother Ben and baby sister Erika were all crowded into a stuffy laundry room together hiding from a tornado. My brother rolled his eyes, asking when he could leave. Much to his dismay, my mom reported the laundry room not safe enough and said we needed to move to a more interior location in the house. She chose a bathroom. It was larger than the laundry and didn’t have dirty clothes laying everywhere so I had no complaints until she told me I had to sit in the bathtub with my brothers. What in the world?
She carried in a small black and white T.V. plugged it in and set it on the bathroom counter. I don’t remember the weatherman’s actual name, only that it reminded me of the map my Dad used on road trips, Rand McNally. Map Man quickly acquired my attention as he declared a tornado had touched down in our town, close to our neighborhood and was moving quickly in our direction. I heard a noise. The hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up. Something was very very wrong. Then I heard these words of Map Man: “Take Cover! Take Cover!” The T.V. briefly flickered on and off. My mom began to pray loudly. Everything went black. The house began to violently shake. If you’ve ever stood too close to a train track then you have a small inkling of what it is to have a T-4 tornado tear through your house while you hide in a bathtub. It roars like a lion, but with the speed and the force of a train. The noise was deafening. It was light, but our lights weren’t on. I looked up to see the roof of our house being lifted off. My mom, holding my sister on her lap, was being lifted up off of the floor by the force of the tornado. The drain of the bathtub gulped and belched as if it was sucking up the water of a thousand baths. And then it was over. The roof slammed back down, my mom hit the floor, my sister began to cry. We all sat stunned.
Before my mom turned the knob and we all stepped into the unknown on the other side of the bathroom door which somehow miraculously held during the time the tornado was ripping our roof off, she prayed and then told us we were alive and we would be thankful for that above all. Nothing beyond that door mattered.
Beyond the door was destruction I’m confident most adults go their entire lives without knowing is a possibility. A street sign from several blocks over lay where our living room sofa had been. Our recently acquired van lay overturned in the upstairs bedroom of our neighbors. And our friends across the street who’d been playing just before the storm? They ended up clinging to a dining room table while the tornado ripped the slats from their walls. But they lived, which wasn’t the case for all on our street. We salvaged little. But we would spend the next several weeks digging through the rubble and eating Salvation Army issued bologna sandwiches.
For most of us, our lives will be a mix of rainy days and blissfully beautiful days in which the sun shines on our face and we dance without a care in the world. But every once in a while I meet someone who has only known sunshine. And sometimes I meet someone who has been terrorized by tornado after tornado. They are terrified to step outside for fear of another. Sometimes these two people end up next to each other. Sunny days can’t imagine why rainy days is so dark and negative. But, you know, we tend to expect more of what we’ve known. It takes intentional effort to believe, to remind ourselves things can be different than they were. It takes courage to have hope.
If we have always been sick, it takes courage to believe we might someday be well. If we have tried a thousand treatments and they have all failed, it takes courage to allow ourselves to believe treatment number one thousand one may work.
It takes courage to hope in spite of the tornado of chronic illness ripping through our lives time and time again.But you friend, you are courageous. Don’t forget to hope. Click To Tweet
*If you’d like to see pictures of the tornado that hit my house in 1986 (which means I was 7) you’ll have to become an e-subscriber to the Sikeston newspaper. Enjoy! Sikeston Standard May 15th, 1986
There is a brief discussion and some footage of the destruction on the CBS Morning News at the 11:43 mark.