Mother Nature is powerful. That statement is an understatement. I have lived through fires, earthquakes, tornadoes and now a hurricane. It was something I will never forget.
Let’s face it, when you move to a new area one of the joys is learning the land. Learning the weather and finding out what you are made of. Can you handle it? Will you survive it? How will you react? What will you learn? There are so many unanswered questions when you are facing something you have never faced before. Much like life the weather can show you things about yourself that you never knew or help you rediscover things about yourself that you have forgotten. That was the case this past weekend when facing a hurricane named Matthew. An experience that was not only exhausting but also exhilarating.
In my last post I talked about the women in my life. The lessons I have learned and the friends I have made. Hurricane Matthew hit here in South Carolina and I found out what the women here are made of. Pure grit and amazing love.
Having never been through a hurricane I was rather feeling out of step with life. Yes, natural disasters have hit my world many times and many times I have faced situations that not only scared me but also taught me. This is no different.
I live a block and a half from the beach. I can literally walk there in a matter of moments. When the hurricane headed our way they ordered evacuations rather quickly. I have to say that I was rather annoyed that I had to leave so soon but I packed a few clothes, grabbed my cat, Seth, and headed inland to my girlfriend, Jesse’s house. Little did I know that this would create an adventure of a lifetime.
So Matthew decides to show himself. I, along with Faith (an old acquaintance from California) and her daughter Anna are all at Jesse’s so we have safe shelter. We are doing alright. We make food to have in case the power goes out. We have an ice chest to fill with water and essentials. We have our blankets and pillows and we are all fairly comfortable. Then the storm hits. Next thing we know we are flooded! Literally. The water is flowing into the house. We are calf deep in water and it is still flowing in. Faith’s car has water up to the doors.
Our first priority was to get all of the animals to safety. Once we managed to figure out where all the animals were going we loaded what we could in my Jeep and we headed out. Yes, I know you shouldn’t drive in flood waters. I get it! You don’t know what is underneath but I also know the feeling that if you don’t drive out you aren’t getting out alive. We took the chance. Obviously, we survived because I am sitting here writing. It was scary and heartbreaking all at the same time. I am watching my best friend’s house fill up with water and there is absolutely nothing I can do. Feeling helpless is one of the worst feelings in the world.
There is a woman. Her name is Carol. I met her when I came to South Carolina. She has an amazing story in this thing we call life. She is a retired soldier and police officer. I have talked to her many times and each time I have gotten to know her a little better. She now owns a bar, along with her husband Larry, called 707. Every time I had seen her I had seen her at 707. Although I have had many conversations with her I had not spent any time with her outside of the bar.
I have found over the years that generally bar friends are just people you sit and talk to but when push comes to shove they aren’t really friends. I learned this lesson many, many years ago and it was a tough lesson to learn. It is also a lesson I have never forgotten. One thing I can say is that I am finding that to not always be true here in South Carolina as the people here tend to meet at the bar and share life outside of it. The bar is more of a “hey let’s go have a drink and then we will go bbq.”
Sometimes lessons need to be relearned with a new twist on them. That is the case here. Carol and I have always gotten along really well but I didn’t know her outside and although I adored her I just didn’t know what she was like outside of the surroundings I had met her and gotten to know her in.
Something you may not know about me. I take the word “friend” very seriously. I do not consider everyone a friend. I have many acquaintances but my friends are few. If I call you my friend I mean it. I don’t take it lightly. I make friends and keep them for life. It isn’t a matter of accumulating people it is a matter of giving my heart to them. To me a friend is someone that I would risk my life for. A friend is someone that is there through thick and thin and someone that can be depended on. I just don’t use the word flippantly and when I call you my friend I mean it. I have committed to you for the rest of my days. It is who I am. Acquaintances come and go, friends last a lifetime.
Back to the storm. So we have to evacuate Jesse’s house. Carol had offered her home to me before the storm and she was a few blocks away. We made it there and she graciously opened her home to Faith, Anna and I as well as my cat, Anna’s dog and one of Jesse’s dogs. Yes! We had a houseful. Already there was Carol’s daughter Tiffany, her husband Sean and their 2 cats as well as Carol, Larry and their dog Jazzie. To say we had a houseful is the understatement.
We got there and the first thing offered were warm pajama’s. I have to tell you that nothing on the face of this earth feels better than a pair of flannel pajama’s when your blue jeans are soaked from walking waist deep in water! I have never been more thankful for the warmth of a pair of pajama’s!
There were many adventures on this day. I will have to write about them on a different day. This is more about what I found that day than the storm and the adventures I had.
Here is the thing. I found 3 women who are no longer acquaintances. They are friends. Carol has over the last few months protected me on levels that others may not understand. She has opened her heart as well as her home. She fed and clothed me in a time of need but beside that she showed me that just because you meet and know someone elsewhere does not mean they won’t be there. She has been there for many things, slow and steady. One of the things that hit me during the storm happened when I went to give her a hug. She wrapped her arms around me and held me while I cried. I was so overwhelmed with all that had happened it was a sweet relief to let it out and know that this beautiful, kind woman understood and shared her heart with me. She shared so much with me in that moment that words can’t rightfully describe it.
Her daughter, Tiffany, had always been around but I think that on many levels she is like me. She just doesn’t trust a lot of people and she sits back and watches people before she decides if she wants them to be a part of her life. Friendship means something to her too. On this day I believe we became friends. We faced adversity together, we laughed together, she made the best hot chocolate (in the fireplace with 2 cups, a teapot and a sterno) that I have ever had. By the end of the storm she went from someone I knew to a friend. We have already gone all in for the next storm! Tiffany, if you read this I will gladly go on any adventure with you!
The third woman was Faith. I had known Faith from California. I didn’t know her well but I knew her well enough to always be happy to see her and just enjoy her company. During this storm we found ourselves side by side facing adversity unlike anything I have experienced before. If we were going to die we were going to do so together. She stood by me, side by side, through all of it. We had quite a few adventures that day, Tiffany joined us for one of them. Imagine 3 women in a foot of water, wearing flip flops or no shoes at all, wind blowing, rain falling, pulling a downed tree out of the road so they could get by. Yeah that was us! We laughed through it all. We rocked it!
We experienced a lot of things during Hurricane Matthew. Yet, for me, the most important thing I experienced was the love and true grit of 3 women who stepped up and showed me that friends come in many forms. I would go to war with any of these three women by my side. I would sit with them in their darkest times and am happy to stand by them in their good times too. To me, I made 3 beautiful friends. They showed me, once again, how beautiful it is to have strong, intelligent, caring, loving women in my life. They taught me to leave all preconceived notions behind and to just be in the now. They also taught me that not all lessons learned in the past are set in stone, change your perspective and you change your world.
Thank you Carol for being that slow and steady friend that understands that friendship is worthy of many things and sometimes you just have to be willing to accept the whole situation for what it is and be thankful for all of it.
Thank you Tiffany for confirming that watching and waiting to see can produce extreme beauty and the beginning of a good and firm friendship.
Thank you Faith for having my back, making me laugh in the worst of times and showing me as well as allowing me to show you that we can surround each other and always know that we’ve got each other.
All of the individual thank you’s could go to each of these women in totality. Each of them showed me the same things over and over. Each of them have offered their hearts, their friendship and their laughter with me. Each of them are unique in who they are and allow me to be me. I love you each more than you can possibly know. Not because you gave me anything but because you showed me that friendship comes from the heart. I am honored to call each of you my friend and I am looking forward to many years of growing, laughing, crying and standing side by side with all of you. You women are phenomenal.
Yes, then there are women and these women, well, they are AMAZING!
In Her Service,