We went to help our friends clean their house yesterday. How overwhelming. When we arrived Tamara was in her car on the phone with the insurance company and Richard was on the roof working...And staring into space.
Where to begin?
Strangely, the first time I nearly broke into tears was when I met her sister. My first thought was, "How awful if I was doing this for my sister." Isn't it weird to have little moments like that? One of my best friends has a sister who is suffering from cancer. Every time we talk, I just can't imagine what I would do if my sister were suffering that way. So I always end up crying right along with her.
It makes me remember that Romans 12:15 tells us to "weep with those who weep." This verse flits through my mind often at work, but I seldom truly weep with patients. My walls are up and I'm in full nurse mode. I think I would fall apart mentally if I wept every time I saw tragedy at work. But when I see this tragedy happen to those I love, those walls aren't nearly as strong.
I asked what they wanted us to do, and as so often is the case in the face of such destruction, they didn't really know what to tell me...I just ended up doing what I knew to do. I spent most of the day packing the kitchen and Studmuffin helped clear the roof of debris so that more of it would not fall in on those trying to clean the house. The kids bedrooms each had walls falling in along with the roof, and one of the bathrooms had the roof cave in while they were trying to salvage things inside. He also helped load the undamaged or slightly damaged belongings into a trailer to move to a neighbor's garage. It seems the storage containers were in such high demand that our friends would not get one delivered until Friday.
Tamara had said she needed all of her important papers packed away before the rain began. Of course their was only a twenty percent chance of rain, but that only means that twenty percent of the people have a hundred percent chance, and who wants to be that person with no roof over their belongings?
I left Tamara and her sister to pack up the office while a friend and I tackled the kitchen. Tamara was amazed at all we got packed, but really packing a kitchen is easy. Simply assemble boxes and wrap, wrap, wrap in paper...
I was stressed that some of the people dropping in and out to pack were being conservative with paper. Obviously these people had not moved many times, or had not had their things stored for a length of time. Paper is your friend! Use it generously!
Richard's great grandmother's china was untouched. The dishes in the cabinets were unmoved, yet the master bed was stripped bare and the linens were on the rafters above the kitchen. A Halloween jack-o-lantern had the cord severed off it, but looked otherwise undamaged. The kitchen drawers were inexplicably full of water, yet the cabinets above and below were dry as a bone with nothing broken...
The windows were shattered, and occasionally a strong wind would come through and bits of glass would fall out and fly through the air...to join the insulation flying around like snow. I kept my sunglasses on and wore a dust mask a good chunk of the day as I quickly realized being in the house made me cough. An older gentleman told us to be sure and shower in cold water so that we didn't open our pores for the glass in the insulation to get in our skin. That really seemed to help as I was very itchy, particularly in the bend of my elbows before showering, and I felt good as new after.
Tornadoes are so fickle. Several church members live in that particular neighborhood and three families in our church had their houses demolished while four had minimal damage (minimal in the sense that it is cosmetic and can be fixed later on, or just need a small patch job on the roof.) One lady voiced her guilt that her house was virtually untouched and yet this house is destroyed. I could sympathize. I felt guilty and we lived three miles away...
I know at least two other families in our church live just up the street from the school and their houses have lots of damage too. I did not see it with my eyes, as the police have those streets blocked off with only residents allowed in. If we want to go help, we have to call the friend/family member who drives to the end of the street to let you in. I know that is to help slow down tourists and looters.
Studmuffin stayed at the church from 12:30 to 2:30 am last night. The back half of our church gym was completely ripped away, and the structure had not been deemed safe for people to enter so they could board up the entrances so nobody could get into the church. How sad that we have to guard the church against looters.
School is officially out for summer due to the damage. How strange to think we were in a shelter right next door with no idea what was going past us other than the lights went out and the a/c quit working. My car was covered in leaves and shredded paper when I went outside. At first this baffled me, but Studmuffin pointed out that the recycle bins were all right there. Mystery solved!
I fear I was my usual bossy self yesterday. Studmuffin told me this morning that if that had been my house, I would have been like a drill sergeant issuing orders to everyone around me. As if he' not just as bossy as me. Believe me, he is.
When we got the phone call (several months ago) that they were flying my mother in love to my hospital due to an aneurysm, but we had two hours before she'd get there, I immediately gave every family member a chore to do, and kept them all moving until it was time to leave. I have no idea why I do that. I do it every time a storm is rolling in also. I guess if I keep busy, my mind can't dwell on the stress that is encroaching, so I just think everyone else should stay busy too!
All I know is that when a crisis kicks in and my bossy nurse mode just takes over! And maybe sometimes (very seldom, mind you) when a crisis isn't impending if I'm totally honest.
The Schwann's man showed up and passed out treats. People dropped in with boxes of pizza and cases of water. The generosity of others was overwhelming to me, and it wasn't even my house! I think that sometimes we are allowed to have a crisis in our lives so that we can realize how God really blesses us. Not with things, but with people.
Richard and Tamara lost their house and many of their belongings. But the entire family was safe. And I heard Tamara say over and over, "I'm not worried about this stuff. It's just a house and stuff. We still have each other."
I'm tearing up thinking about it. Me, who never cries. I was so blessed to get to help them in their time of need and see their faith that it was all going to be all right. God was taking care of them.
Studmuffin and I talked about what our original plans had been for our week off to celebrate our anniversary. In typical weird fashion for us, we had planned to be home just the two of us, eat a light take out lunch and work on our fence. But God planned for something entirely different from our selfish little plans. I'm glad He made me part of this plan. I'm glad He gave us the time and ability to help out. I only helped with a tiny fraction of what needed to be done, but I was blessed to be able to help in that small way. I'm glad my God is the God who provides for our every need, in ways we never expect.
What a humbling experience.