Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Before and After (05/14/09)
- TITLE: Life Detour
By Marlene Bonney
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I picked my way gingerly through the melee of broken furniture, car parts and twisted appliance pieces, searching for something—anything—that might be a puzzle piece of my former existence; but, so far, I had not discovered anything remotely familiar.
“But, I’m alive. I survived,” I whispered, and then was startled by the sound of my own voice, raspy from yesterday’s screams.
I shuffled along, disoriented, trying to find a recognizable landmark in this dizzying search I had begun. Before long, I could hear moaning and sobbing from a fellow survivor a ways off, joining my mourning of mounting loss. We stumbled, separately but together, in this seemingly hopeless pilgrimage to regain a sense of purpose from the middle-of-the-night disaster's leftovers. A church’s stripped belfry, it’s forlorn bell cracked and silent on the dirt; a deserted bird’s nest, eggs still warm; a dried up flower bed, limp and lifeless; abandoned cars, lopsided and twisted like bent tinker-toys; roof shingles and house siding strips, ripped and strewn about, playing hide and seek with the twisted metals of lawn chairs and plumping parts.
“Oh, God, please help me to get home where I belong. I am so lost!” and, even in my confusion, I was reminded of His parable of the lost sheep and could be thankful that I was secure in His loving arms in or outside my usual environments.
And then, there it was. A bright red kerchief with acrylic roses I had appliquéd during a high school Home Economics class, unmistakably mine in its uniqueness, laying neatly folded on top of some linens fluttering from a downed tree’s branches. I stroked it softly, almost as if it were Genie’s magic lamp that would grant me one wish—that all would be as it was yesterday instead of this daytime nightmare.
Little by little, a piece at a time, I recognized and followed a convoluted path of more personal possessions, feeling like Hansel or Gretel on their bread-crumbed quest for home. When I eventually stood on the threshold of what was left of my house, absolute desolation welcomed me. I felt naked without my usual belongings, the things that I thought defined who I was: my library of books by favorite authors, the photo albums of precious memories, the children’s baby books containing locks of newborn hair, the special souvenirs from memorable travels. Surprisingly, the costliest things—my car, the hard-earned designer furniture, hoarded collections of expensive items—did not seem that important.
The south wall was still standing! And I sobbed as I ran my calloused fingers up and down the penciled lines and height recordings of our children’s growth charts, desperately thankful for this relic of my past. And instantly I knew I could make it through the tornado’s aftermath, emotionally as well as physically, this piece of wall a concrete symbol of promise.
Grandma always said that every cloud has a silver lining and I am now living proof that this adage is true. Three months of starting over has taught me how dispensable and fragile material possessions are and that they cannot be used to measure the success of my life. God’s grace has given me daily strength to recover from the disaster’s lingering upheaval and I have a more realistic view of the temporal homes of this earth.
As an extra bonus, after being a widow for 20 years, I met and married another tornado survivor who also is a follower of God. We live in a gated community for seniors, which is very pleasant, and are making our own memories in a new home. A piece of my old south wall and a piece from his old fireplace are collaged together over our front door, a reminder every time we enter that whenever God closes a door, He opens a new window.
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