We drive slow past the rubble, through remnants of lives twisted, crumbled, scattered. He sits in his truck in front of a pile of sticks he says used to be his house.
I can’t tell.
A stranger reaches for my shoulder suddenly as it hits her. All that they’ve lost.
And all she’s been spared.
“My grandbabies and I walk down here and get ice-cream,” she points out the window, her fingers gripping my shirt. “We just… walk,” her voice is distant, “We’re just a few blocks away.”
I put my hand over hers as the dam starts to break. “It came so close.”
And isn’t this always the way? Even if your house is left standing…
even if it looks like everything is fine.
The storm still leaves scars.
She covers her mouth and tries to be brave, and I know she would do anything for these people. Her people. That’s why she’s here.
But sometimes, the rescuers need rescuing.
I don’t even know her name, but she’s reaching, and I’m not letting go.
She’s saying she’s sorry, and I wonder for what?
Sorry for caring? Sorry for waking up to the miracle of walking to get ice-cream with her babies?
Sorry for bending, for breaking when life hits you and the ones you love with the full force of an F5 tornado? Sorry for not being strong enough to “handle” the kind of storm that twists and snaps steel like so much silly putty?
A storm that leaves a mama’s arms empty and her heart-broken.
A town can turn to debris in a matter of minutes, but those heart-strings can snap in a second.
She’s still hanging onto me as I look over my shoulder. She knows.
She knows, sometimes the only way to start is to reach out. To hang on to someone.
Even if it makes you feel weak.
I can tell she’s there, and I speak the words that have been spoken to me, “You’re allowed.”
She shakes her head and chokes out the words, “No I’m not.” Still, she doesn’t let go.
I’m looking at her… and I’m looking at me. And why don’t we believe it?
When did we decide we were the strong ones? That we were somehow immune to the breaking?
That everyone else is allowed to struggle but us?
I squeeze her hand and this time a chorus of voices join me in speaking the truth, “Yes you are.”
I can feel her hanging on, trying to believe, and I know.
I know the feeling that any minute, you’re going to drop.
To feel the weight of the crushing.
To wonder what happens when you’re too weak even to hang on.
Will He let go? We’re fighting for the answer, sifting through the rubble of our aftermath.
We pretend we’re “recovered,” but we’re up to our knees in debris.
I don’t even know her name. But she’s reaching. And I’m not. Letting. Go.
He knows my name. I’m reaching. And He’s not. Letting. Go.
Do I believe it? I’m still reaching. Still asking for help to believe. Where else would I go?