As so many people have recently experienced, any amount of physical preparation and disaster plans may not be enough in the face of an unexpected event like a tornado. Split second decisions to take cover or grab your pet; to get out of your car and dive into a ditch or stay in it and outrun the storm; or to hold on to a loved one while another is being ripped from your arms surely result in a lifetime of what ifs. And not only the what ifs, but the blaming of self or others for tragic outcomes. It is impossible to predict outcomes and it's impossible to rethink every decision we make. Physical preparedness and general decision making will never be enough. Faith and spiritual preparedness is the key.
I heard a story recently about a young boy who was torn from his parents arms during the tornado last month. And while that story is sadly familiar to many, what may or may not be as common was that the family could hear him saying bible verses as he was taken away. Whatever split second decisions the family made in the moments before the tornado likely would not have changed the outcome. But the decisions that family made to spiritually educate and prepare their child served him best at the end of his life. For that alone, they should be very proud.
I have had a few near-death experiences, more than my fair share probably. One of those experiences was in a tornado. Or rather on the very outer edges of one. Near-death might be exaggerating it but we did not know that at the time. My mom and I were driving from Birmingham, AL back to Tuscaloosa. We had been shopping all day for dresses to wear to a family wedding and graduations later that spring and summer. Tornadoes and severe weather are just as common in Alabama as they are here in the Midwest. Spring is filled with storm watches and warnings. We knew the drill. But life can't, or doesn't, stop for every severe weather warning. It's just the nature of living it every year. We become immune.
Mom and I were almost back to Tuscaloosa on Interstate 20/59 in my white 2-door Chevy Lumina. We were less than a mile from the T-town exit of McFarland Blvd and we had been watching the sky all the way home. I remember the storms had been bad already in Birmingham and we were headed west directly into them. It was bad and it was getting worse. We tried to inch our way back to the house I rented with my friend Clare....a house which incidentally was destroyed in the recent Tuscaloosa tornado.
I have always been taught to never ever stop on the side of the road. It's safer to keep moving forward and so we did. At one point we could feel the tornado more so than we could see it. We could feel the car lifting slightly every few seconds as if something was drifting up under us. We found out later that the tornado had hit the Wal-mart at the McFarland Blvd exit. It has been only a few blocks from us so we know now for sure that we were feeling the outer edges of the twister. At the time we didn't have I-phones to check the radar. I don't think we even had cell phones at the time because I remember my friends Lisa and Clare being worried sick when we finally arrived home. We had no idea how close we were too it other than the fact that it seemed to be lifting our car off the road ever so slightly every few seconds. I think that tornado dropped a car into the middle of one of the aisles of the Wal-Mart.
Mom and I both knew that we were potentially in some serious danger, but instead of freaking out we calmly discussed our options and the possibilities. We knew we didn't want to stop, but going forward was proving to be dangerous too. I honestly don't even remember if there were many other cars around. I think that it was too dark to see much and we were focused on ourselves.
I remember saying a prayer with my mom and then she told me that if something happened to us and if one of us didn't survive that the other one of us should not feel bad or responsible. Then we just held hands and said prayers, some silently and some aloud. I have always thought that was so insightful of my mom. She knew that we were in God's hands and there was no place for guilt or blame if one of us made it through this alive but the other one did not. I can imagine that is easier said that done, but it's a very good place to start when facing tragedy.
Every time I hear a story about a family that has experienced loss of life during a tornado, I think about that day and how strong and calm my mom was for both of us. I hope that I can set the same example for my children. So every day I am trying to ask myself if I, like my mother, am working to prepare my children spiritually for whatever may come. Good, bad, wonderful, or tragic. I hope so. I really, really hope so.
|3 generations at the circus- 2010|