April 1, 2020

Don’t you wish that this morning, someone would say, “April Fools! The past few weeks were just a dream. Go back to life before COVID19.”?  I wouldn’t wish pandemic on anyone. And yet…one of my favorite memories occurred with my older grandchildren in August, 2011, in the midst of Hurricane Irene. Seriously! I was on a 3-month sabbatical, and before traveling to the Holy Land, I offered to spend a week taking care of Lily (6 at the time) and Ross (3 at the time) while their parents celebrated their anniversary in the Dominican Republic. 

In the days up to there departure, there were a number of unusual things that occurred. There was a head-lice scare in my granddaughter’s preschool class. There was a fire in the Dismal Swamp that spewed smoke and created a dense haze as far north as Mechanicsville, VA. There was a 5.8 earthquake that hit about 38 miles northwest of Mechanicsville. Irene was just a tropical storm, predicted to miss the Dominican Republic and make landfall south and far east of Richmond. 

My son and daughter-in-law decided that things looked OK for their long-awaited getaway. They made sure we had lots of batteries and flashlights on-hand in the unlikely event that Irene veered north west, and I dropped them off at the airport feeling confident that all would be well.

Thirty-six hours later, things had changed. Irene had developed into a hurricane, predicted to hit us. Mid-afternoon we hit the grocery store, where things looked much like today in Woodstock, low on toilet paper, milk and all the usual staples. That evening, Hurricane Irene arrived, with heavy rain and high winds, followed by all the power going out. I made the executive order that we were going to bunk down for the night on the living room floor – the room furthest away from the tall pines in the yard. The wind was fierce, and we could hear branches falling. Eventually, surrounded by Ross, Lily, and Jackson the dog, we settled on the floor to sleep. As I prayed myself to sleep, in addition to prayers for safety, the thought floated through my mind that if I were going to die, this would be a wonderful final moment. 

We awoke to blue skies, and went outside to survey the damage. A 40-foot pine had fallen in the back yard, away from the house and crushing the fence at the edge of the yard (see photo below).  The power was out for three days, and we “camped” at home for the duration. We had three glorious days without any electronic devices, left to our imaginations to entertain ourselves. Lily, who had studied the pilgrims in school that year, decided we were living just like them, and turned it into a grand adventure.  When I took apart a microwave bag of popcorn and popped it in a pan on the gas stove, Lily was awestruck, “Nana, you must be the oldest person alive! You know how to make popcorn without a microwave!” Late in the afternoon of the third day, about an hour before the parents returned, there was a sudden blast of noise and light as the TV and lights suddenly turned on. And I cried, not from relief, but from sadness that those precious moments were gone. We still talk about that time. 

A tree in a forest

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These days of COVID19 are difficult, with many challenges and stressors.  But these are also precious times, times when you have family dinners – together, when you take long walks, have time to play board games, work on puzzles, plant the garden and actually have time to watch it grow. You might even institute dress up night once a week, like my son’s family is doing (photo below).

A group of people posing for the camera

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Psalm 118:24, one of the readings for Palm Sunday, includes these words, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Use your eyes to see all that is good today. Look through old photos to remind yourself of good times. Take a photo of something that brings you joy today.



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