It happened about 11:00 this morning. Today, of ALL days, I was at a hospital having some tests run. Everything's fine, and I am glad it's over. Today, of ALL days - a STRESS test! Somewhere God is laughing....
It's the two year anniversary of Katrina's landfall. I've tried my best to ignore it, to de-emphasize it. The people of my parish begged us not to do anything special. Instead we will have our regular Wednesday night service of healing and Holy Eucharist, and I will add some special prayers and music to mark the occasion.
I thought I was ok with this day.....of ALL days.
It's not the memories. I won't ever forget what it was like riding that storm out. The howling of the unceasing wind, the fear of what was being done to our community, our homes, our church. I was in a house about 5 miles inland, and it was not pleasant. The days afterward are just a blur, a blur of images of devastation, collapse, ruin, people-in-shock, rumors, worries, unreal heat, lack of sleep, and complete puzzlement over what exactly to do, other than wake up from the little sleep you could manage and get somewhere and help someone. Day after day.
A first year of watching massive debris piles finally picked up, of people, one by one, coming by to say goodbye, of struggles with a church decimated by this storm, of worries about my own family, my son especially, and what this is doing to them.
A second year of increasing frustration with the slow-ness of EVERYTHING. The way people feel absolutely raped by their insurance carriers, the same ones that reported RECORD profits. The steady and good and solid and amazing work going on, bit by bit, brick by brick, with the incredible army of volunteers who come and labor and pray and hopefully go home better for having been here, hopefully go home and tell our story so others will come.
I didn't need to watch CNN or any other program to remember. I didn't even want to.
Yesterday I received in the mail a package from a seminary classmate. In it was an autographed copy of our graduating class, signed by all the members. You see, when we graduated we each signed the mattes for each other's pictures, and my copy was framed and hanging in my office when the storm surge came, when the waters burst my church into a million little pieces, and all my books, my ordination certificates, my diploma....and my class picture, washed away, out to sea or buried in rubble never to be found, floating along with our pews and our altar. My loss was minuscule compared to most others, but a few things were gone that I could not recreate.
On Palm Sunday of 2006 our class president, Larry Motz, died from cancer. A few days before his death a classmate, Nicolette Papanek, visited with our dear friend. Larry asked her to get his picture, his signed graduation picture and take it with her. He asked her to frame it and mail it to ME, for he knew mine was long gone. We'd talked about it just a week before, in my last conversation with Larry, that my picture was gone. He didn't say anything to me about his picture, but he made Nicolette promise to send it to me.
So it came. Yesterday. I opened it and was overcome....overcome....
Today when I got into my car at the hospital, thinking about what words to say tonight at our anniversary service, I thought of Larry and that amazing gift. I thought of my classmates, many who have been down here to help. I thought also of the scores, SCORES, of volunteers who have come to our aid, who have changed us and who have themselves been changed, I thought of all the people I have gotten to meet, to work with and laugh with and eat with and pray with, people I would have never known otherwise. I thought of that great image of St. Paul, the body of Christ, all connected, all vital, all needed, ALL needed.
And then it came. Sitting in my truck the tears came, they fell hard and fast and surprising. I really haven't had the "good cry" yet, two years later it happened and I was totally unprepared, on this anniversary I was trying to ignore.
For those who read this blog and journey with us, we are connected, my brothers and sisters. Thank you for your willingness to make that so apparent to me, to all of us.
We will get through today, and wake up tomorrow and wonder how long this will go on, how long Oh Lord, how long. And then someone else shows up, to help, to pray, to smile, to laugh, to cry with us.
God bless you all.