Today marks one year.
One year since an EF3 tornado tore our city to pieces. 365 days of picking up the pieces and putting lives back together. 52 weeks of trying to make peace with a new “normal.”
It’s weird how 1 year can be so short, yet so long.
When I think about life before the tornado, it seems like it’s been ages since that was our “normal”. Like sitting in Mamaw’s kitchen eating Christmas brunch happened for the last time years ago. But, at the same time, the memory is so clear, it feels like just last month I was seeing the destruction for the first time.
All of the emotions-the shock, horror, and disbelief-I felt seeing everything for the first time is still so fresh. The way my heart stopped when I saw the first aftermath pictures while sitting, completely helpless, in my dorm room in Nashville. The chills and nervous sweats waiting, hoping, for a call from home saying everyone was okay. And the tears that fell when I heard those words, “Mammaw’s house was hit by the tornado and they were inside when it hit. We don’t know anything else right now.”
April 28th, 2014 is a day that our city and family will remember for years to come. Those images are not easily forgotten. 365 days later and they’re still clear as day.
But a year brings new life, new beginnings, and a new perspective.
5 years ago, I would have spent hours looking for reasons why this happened. Searching far and wide for answers to all of the “Why?’s”. Because, we all know, the age-old classic, “Everything happens for a reason.” But as I’ve experienced more of life, I’ve realized that’s not really true.
Sometimes, things happen because we live in a world ruled by laws of nature. We experience death and disaster because that’s part of life. It just is.
Properly dealing with tragedy, then, has little to do with finding a “reason” for why something happened and a lot to do with simply searching for the good that can be garnered from it. In every situation, no matter how atrocious, some small piece of silver lining can be found.
So, sitting here, 365 days later, where have I found the silver lining?
In the celebration of life and family.
On April 28th, 2014, we had no way to know that we would lose my Papaw to cancer a short 8 months later. We all knew his diagnosis wasn’t good, but he was going to make it. He was taking chemotherapy and radiation. He was going to make it. He had to make it.
But he didn’t. On December 16th, 2014, Papaw lost his battle to cancer.
But because of those horrible events on April 28th, we spent those last 8 months of his life closer, both physically and emotionally, than our family had been in a long time.
For the first few weeks after the tornado, we all lived under the same roof. We shared dinner around the same table every night, and we spent more consecutive days together than I ever remember.
And in those days, we pulled together as a family. We leaned on each other in ways we didn’t before.
We cried with each other, we reminisced with each other, and we held each other up. We recounted fond memories and relived old stories some of us had forgotten. We spent time cherishing each other as family should.
And I think the events of that day gave us a little reminder of how fragile life really is. Earthly possessions can be destroyed in a second, but so can lives. We were so thankful that day to have made it out with all of our family members alive. But in a few short days to come, things would be a little different.
While the events of April 28th, 2014, are some I would never wish on anyone, I’m thankful for the intangible “things” it brought our family.
It brought closeness. Restored relationships. And a gracious reminder to savor the day, because life is fragile.
Without that day, I’m afraid we would have all kept living our lives, separately, cruising down the fast lane. But instead, we slowed down, hopped in the same car, and started enjoying life together.
And while there may not be a “reason” for why the tornado hit, I can appreciate the restored life it left behind. And I’m thankful for it.