Two nights ago, tornadoes ripped through nearby towns. They tore apart homes, families, livelihoods and security. I sat for nearly seven hours as the newscasters told me that it was going to miss my town, that it was heading straight for my town and finally that it had created destruction everywhere around me, but spared my town. The sky was ominous. The atmosphere was, in a word, creepy... and the sound of a jet hovering overhead turned out to be the F5 tornado many towns away. It was the sound of lives changing in a moment.
I spent the day today going through my closet and putting together things to give to the people of Parkersburg, whose town is gone but not lost. In the process of searching for things that may help build their lives, I discovered myself finding a way to let go of my own past life. Before I became sick I took my full life for granted. I assumed I would always be social, rarely at home, singing at weddings and working to my heart's content.
Now, because of the need of others I finally let go of the dresses I don't need for singing at weddings, the shoes with heels that are too high to use with crutches and the little clutch purses that can't swing hands-free across my body. They haven't been of any use to me for such a long time, but I couldn't seem to get rid of them without a reason. I mean… what if, after ten years of getting worse, I wake up tomorrow able to sing at a wedding again? What if, after barely leaving the house a handful of times in the last year, I break out and go on a date? Those heels would come in handy.
But the reality is that I have to let go of sifting through my life just as the people in Parkersburg, New Hartford and Dunkerton will soon have to do. They are going to have to step aside and watch the bulldozers carry away the remnants of their old lives so they can start rebuilding their town, their homes, their families, their livelihoods. They will find their new normal in the midst of the chaos and see blessings in tragedies. They will struggle between holding on and letting go, and I will cheer them on in spirit as I do the same with my life.
Somewhere in the midst of all of their trouble, in my heart aching for them and trying to imagine their loss and their gratitude and their hope, I let go of hopes that aren't meant to be fulfilled and offered the material remnants of my past life for their new lives. It's another start, and a fresh start always means hope is on the horizon. Theirs may be the hope of building bigger, stronger, better. Mine may be of building a resiliency for the pain that lies ahead. But both are hope nonetheless.