I originally started to write this post for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. However, a late night watching the paths of tornadoes, early risings from the kids, and a canceled kid-swap day due to a stomach bug kept me from getting this post published Thursday morning. After contemplating the topic some more, I decided this post is actually perfect for ‘Journeys,’ but since Mama Kat gave me the inspiration, I’m linking up with her, as well.
3.) What is going on in the bedroom? Describe a memorable sleeper.
For the last five years, sleep has been a commodity. With three children came three more reasons that I would never be able to count on a consistent routine of a solid eight hours. Every night this week, my husband and I have either been stalled in our desire to go to bed or ripped from a deep sleep due to cries in bedrooms down the hall. Last night was different, however. Last night my own worry kept me awake, causing me to grab only a couple of hours here and there.
I had known all day that a storm was coming. The day before our trusty meteorologist warned through the radio that there was a chance we’d wake to thunderstorms, and even though that morning passed without those flashes of lightning, he warned that another system would arrive around eight p.m. I took notice, and I sent my husband an e-mail asking him not to work past six; tornadoes were supposed to accompany this storm, and I wanted him home with us before the fireworks began.
The kids were ready to make their way upstairs as Matt arrived home, and we had everyone tucked into bed by 8:15. I went downstairs to check my phone that had rung while I was rocking my daughter, and I noticed a missed call from my dad. I called him, knowing that he doesn’t usually call me in the evenings.
“I just wanted to make sure that you’re ready for the storm,” he said after I told him I saw I missed his call.
“Umm…no. I mean, we know it’s coming, but we haven’t done anything, yet.”
“Well, if you guys want to come over here and stay in the basement, you’re more than welcome.”
I got a little nervous after his suggestion. After all, Dad had never invited us to share the basement for any other storm. I told Matt the offer, but he didn’t think we needed to make the drive over there. We’d just take the necessary precautions here.
Together we pulled tray-tables and plastic bags full of party decorations out of the downstairs closet. I stacked plastic totes with red lids full of Dr. Seuss hats and paper Thanksgiving turkeys, butterflies and sundry other creations made in preschool. I found small boxes of pictures that had not yet made it to albums, and I retrieved around six blankets that Matt and I cuddled under on those rare nights when we watched a movie. And while I was preparing for the storm, I was performing a mental checklist of the items I would need to organize this closet.
Matt found all the bike helmets from the garage, and I grabbed a football helmet from the playroom. We had four helmets and five of us. I ran upstairs and threw down the massive pillows that adorned our bed and grabbed the flashlight from Matt’s dresser drawer. I remembered seeing Caleb’s little flashlight under his bed when I had hunted down the missing Easter candy earlier, and I got on my stomach, squirming my way under his bed until I could reach the little light. I set the two flashlights next to each other on my nightstand in case the power went out while we were asleep.
We were ready.
While sipping warm soup at the kitchen table, I sent my sister a text asking her to tell Dad that we were prepared now; he didn’t need to worry. She texted me back with Dad’s offer of the basement again and concluded with the words “good luck and god speed” if we decided to stick it out at our house.
I had never in my life heard my sister or anyone in my family, for that matter, use those words. I reached across the table to show Matt the text, and I admitted that I was officially scared. What kind of storm did we need to expect?
After our quick dinner, I ran upstairs to take a shower before the thunder and lightning began. And as is typical for me, my thoughts took off as soon as I was alone getting ready for that shower. What if we’ve made a mistake and should’ve gone to my parents? What if we went to my parents, but the storm hit there and not here? If we have to take cover, how will I keep the kids calm? What would I do if anything happened to Matt or the kids?
I began to worry. I knew a storm was coming, but I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know exactly where. And while I didn’t want to dwell on morbid thoughts, as I kissed each kid goodnight again, I wondered if I would get the chance to do the same thing in that same room again tomorrow. I was assuming the worst–that the tornadoes would hit us–based on the urgent nature of the newscasters and the number of friends on Facebook heading for their basements. And I found it strange to know a disaster was coming and to have to sit tight and wait. And I found it unnerving to know that what I was waiting for could change my life forever.
But praying and waiting was all there was left to do. We made the best preparations we could, and now we just needed to see if they were necessary or not.
I pretended to read on the couch where we continued to listen to the excited weatherman and watch the giant red blob work its way across the screen. I peered over the top of my book as the weatherman gave the countdown for each city in the path of the mile-wide tornado. Floyd, you have two minutes to take cover. Sandy Springs, you have eight minutes to get ready–you are in the direct path of the storm. And I knew I wouldn’t sleep tonight.
But I woke up an hour or so later on the couch to the boom of thunder and sound of rain beating on the windows. I immediately sat up and focused my tired eyes on the T.V., looking for the red blob and the small cities named on the screen. It was almost one a.m., and two different storms were nearer, yet they looked as if they would slide by us, one overhead, one below.
Matt was sound asleep. I tried to wake him, desperate to know if he had a plan for how we would hear if we needed to take cover. All of the preparations would mean nothing if we slept while the storm was knocking at our door. Matt said he’d turn on the radio on his nightstand, but I was not comforted knowing that I woke Matt, not his alarm, most mornings. But, alas, we didn’t have any other options, and from what we could tell, unless the storm turned, we should fare okay.
Good sleep was hard to come by that night. Chloe had acted upset at bedtime and awoke crying again after we had fallen asleep. And at five a.m., I again jerked awake to hear the conversation on the radio that the threat of dangerous weather for our area was now over. I no longer needed to be afraid; we were safe.
Even though I try to wake up at five most mornings, I decided to go back to sleep. I was exhausted. Unfortunately, my kids decided to wake an hour earlier than usual.
As I went about the morning routine of getting the kids ready for school, putting tray-tables and unused helmets back in their places, I thought about the preparations Matt and I made the night before. We didn’t know when or exactly where, but we knew the storm was coming. And while we hoped for the best, we didn’t know if we’d be counted with those who had lost something precious in the storm.
Almost 300 individuals lost their lives as a result of this storm system that swept through the southeast. As I poured milk in cereals bowls, I thought to myself that their end is no different than the one I’m going to face–I will die, too. The only questions are when and how.
And just as I prepared for a tornado last night with pillows and flashlights, there are preparations to be made for that moment when I will cease to exist in this life, that moment that we all know is coming.
I know I have areas in which I need to improve, habits I want to correct so that I’ll leave this Earth with no regrets. But I also believe that when I leave this world, I’ll enter another where I’ll meet my God. And when I see Him face-to-face, I will tell Him, “I tried to prepare, but I have done nothing that can make me worthy to enter into your presence, nothing except for one preparation–to love your Son who thought me worthy to die in my place.”
We all face the same end. The end of the story is not a surprise–it’s just the journey that’s different for all of us. So are you prepared? Do you know what you believe? And if not, when do you plan to prepare? The storm is coming while you sleep, and there is no guarantee that there will be time to get ready when you wake up.
Please keep the families devastated by this storm in your thoughts and prayers today. Click here if you’d like to make a donation to the American Red Cross to help these disaster victims.
Have you ever had to prepare for a literal storm coming your way? What thoughts ran through your mind? How much thought have you given to the fact of your own mortality? Are you ready if you died today?