When I delivered some supplies to River Plantation, one of the hardest-hit regions of my community, I noticed these trucks. I went back to photograph them a week later. A volunteer at the site, when asked about his team's denominational affiliation, said they were a non-denominational organization out of Missouri. He added that this was "a non-denominational flood." They were just there to help people, he said. I loved their slogan: "Honor God. Help People."
The sight of them burst the unknown dam holding back a personal flood of tears. Headed south on interstate 85. A convoy. SUVs and pick-up trucks, several hauling utility trailers. Emblazoned upon magnetized signs adhering to the front side doors of each vehicle: “United Methodist Disaster Relief Team, Cary, NC.”
Cary is a suburb of Charlotte. And Charlotte is the next major city north of my hometown of Greenville, SC. Both I--and I was certain--the convoy, were following the paved path of four or more connecting interstates through Atlanta, then Chattanooga, then Nashville. The flood waters had mostly receded but our city’s homes and spirits needed the merciful hands, strong backs and grace-giving hearts of that team and the hundreds of church and other volunteer groups like them.
The day I passed the convoy, I’d gone home overnight. Fourteen hours worth of road tripping in two days to pick up furniture from my deceased mother’s estate for the home that I’ll be sharing with The Fiancé when we marry this summer. The morning had begun with me trying not to criticize the reflection of the woman turning 50 in one month. Inside her outwardly disheveled self, her mind reflected on the oddity that she stood putting on a minimal amount of makeup in the guest bathroom of her oldest sister’s home. Her fiancé was in the room next door. In the kitchen were her oldest sister and her husband and her middle sister. Their mother had now been dead one-and-a-half years. Two mother’s days had come and gone. Their father was spending his days in an assisted living facility swearing to beat the Parkinson’s that had attacked his once proud body and sharp-witted mind. Stark reality….I mulled, during my last ditch attempts for outward decency: we were no longer the children in this family. We were all grown up now, dispersing the contents of our parents' home into our own.
A handful of hours later--after breakfast was eaten on the run, a visit made to Daddy, supervision given for the loading of the rental truck that The Fiancé would drive to Nashville—alone, my quiet car--lapping the miles ahead of me--became my reservoir for when that passing convoy triggered the lock on the dam of my emotions.
The only thing constant in Life is change, says my gyn nurse practitioner. Right now I’m going through a hefty share of it. This fall, I published my first book. Something-- author/blogger friend Bill Peach wrote recently--is a continual project that I keep trying to put a temporary wrap on as the school year ends as a home of 16 years waits to have its contents packaged and boxed. Ten days into June, I mark a half century of living on Mother Earth and just a tad over one month later, I marry for the second time around. Tucked amid the celebrations, my only child--whose autism means she faces many adjustments that could be even greater in scale for her and thus me and the fiancé—marks Sweet 16.
change. Hauling my deceased mother’s
furniture to my future home with a new husband. And my city. My city has
suffered so much untold damage. I began sobbing. I’d
stopped and started crying all for more
than a week since the flood. This time, I could not seem to stop.
I tried to reach a favorite cousin--a
recently retired chaplain. I needed to process this trauma I felt,
those convoying Methodists. I understood it intellectually on many
I needed to process it aloud with a compassionate ear. The number I
called was ancient and no longer
applicable. It was the only one I had.
As if in rescue mode, my memory seemed to yell: “Robbie! Spiritual Director! Robbie! Spiritual Director!”
The baseball field of Edwin Warner Park is one of two sorting sites for the debris that homeowners cleared post flood. The trails of the park, where I walked frequently, are closed due to the damage. But this portion bustles with dump trucks and cranes delivering and sorting the broken material remains of human lives.
So, on a busy Saturday morning, as she was packing to leave the country to teach a university study-abroad writing course in The Holy Land, I reached one of my best friends. Trusted, Robbie held the space for my personal flood of tears. In time she shared her own sense of futility to help so many of our friends that, like me, she learned daily had lost everything. She helped affirm me of the impact of all the changes in my life that equaled happy yet still induced stress. She gave me the insight of the gravity of my reflection--that my siblings and I were no longer the children of our family. That our caretakers had died or were dying. Of course I knew that, but on another level, it was still weighty to process. This was yet another layer.
My body was telling me that I needed to stop, said Robbie. Grieve! It demanded. In the confines of my car, the long road ahead of me, the tears I choked back for a week-plus could no longer be plugged. Ready or not. They came.
Last week, popular blogger, Suburban Turmoil, who also lives in my area of town—one of the areas most affected by the flood—wrote in her Nashville Scene column about realizing she had survivor’s guilt, which was part of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Reading those words resonated with me. I do not believe I have survivor’s guilt in one sense, but saying that I’ve been suffering mild PTSD—which I do believe I have--and then feeling guilty for saying so…well, that probably is a form of survivor’s guilt. I did not experience any physical damage to my property. None of the devastating loss experienced by so many. But, it is traumatic to drive up the main thoroughfare from my end of town and see the contents of flooded homes discarded by the road. Furniture. Dry wall. Children's’ toys. Bicycles. It is traumatic. And, as Robbie explained, I am hurting because humanity is hurting. We are All One. When one of us hurts, we all hurt….
“Go ahead and get it out,” Robbie encouraged. “Cry those tears. Grieve.” I did. Given the flood’s devastation to our city, I’d written on my Face book wall: “My heart is breaking.” This friend, featured here in my blog coverage the second week post-flood last week, commented in reply: “Let your heart break. Go ahead. When hearts are broken they become open….”
From now through the summer, while I'm moving, getting married & honeymooning, I'll be posting at a reduced schedule, aiming for a minimum of two posts weekly on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Most weeks I'll have an autism/disability specific post and the other will combine Mondays' "All the Rest of Life" and the usual "Arts Friday" themes.