First published Oct 25, 2019
It was going to be gigantic. Overwhelming. Massively destructive. They told us to seek safer ground. Most people did. But I lived with my mother who was old and sick and infirm. She could not be moved.
She begged me to leave her behind and seek safety. She didn’t have much longer to live even under the best conditions. She knew she would not survive, but alone I might stand a chance. But I would not. I could not. I could not bear the thought of her spending her last hours terrified and alone. And to be honest, my decision to stay was not totally out of selflessness. I, myself, was terrified and I did not want to ride it out in unfamiliar surroundings among strangers. If I was going to die – and I was fairly certain we both would — we would go together. She was with me when I came in to the world and there was a certain poetry to her being there when I left it.
And so I prepared our small house as best I could for the coming onslaught. Together we prayed that God and Mother Nature would spare us.
We first felt the ominous change in the air. We’d been through hurricanes before and we knew how they went. Soon the wind started. Just gusts at first, which pounded at our shutters and against our door, shaking and rattling them ferociously. Soon, the rainy gusts became a steady, howling force, beating our sturdy but old house. Our home had survived other storms over the years, but none as fierce as this one. It was not built for a barrage such as this.
The lights sputtered and died. This much was expected. I lit the kerosene lamp
My mother was not afraid, not for herself. She had already made peace with her Maker. She was ready to die and had been for months. But I was more afraid than I’d ever been in my life. I crawled into bed with her, and wrapped my arms around her, clinging to her now-frail body as I had when I was frightened or upset as a young child. She held me in her arms, and soothed me as she did so many years before.
We lay like that for many hours. Most of a day. We talked about our lives. We remembered my father, who had died many years before, and whom we both still missed terribly. We remembered long past birthday parties. We remembered Christmases and graduations and weddings. We remembered old friends, and family, and neighbors. We were grateful we had had so much joy and happiness.
After a time, exhausted from stress and fear, I drifted in and out of sleep, only to be startled awake by the sound of a tree being ripped from the ground or of detritus being flung by the wind against the outer walls of the house. I didn’t know if it sounded worse than it actually was or if it was worse than it sounded. I dared not peek outside to check.
I was half awake/half asleep when with a roar and a groan, the wind ripped the roof clear off the house. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Suddenly, death was no longer hypothetical. I knew at that moment we would not survive; that the end was very near. I was shaking with terror but Mother was calm and at peace. She held me as tightly as her weak limbs would allow, and sang to me the songs she used to sing when I was a very young. Her breath was weak, but she never stopped singing. She stroked my hair, and sang. She kissed my head, and sang. She rocked me, and sang. She called me all the pet names she had called me as a girl, and sang. She told me she loved me, and sang.
It wasn’t much longer before we were blown away. It happened fast and I don’t remember exactly the specific cause of our end, but it seemed that in the next instant, Mother and I were floating above the devastation, together, without fear.