My neighborhood recently experienced a horrific flood, affecting thousands of homes, including my own, as I spoke about in this blog.
This is what happens when flood water comes into your home: it's a mad dash to save, salvage and rescue anything of sentimental value, and then a manic and relentless wave of packing up the remaining contents of your house.
Why manic you may ask? It's a scramble against time with the restoration and drying out of your home requiring walls and cabinets to come down and everything contained in them must be discarded or packed. (Mold, mildew and bacteria must be prevented.) Anything that was out in the open (knick-knack queen that I was) must be packed. You want to get everything away before the contractors get to that room and just TOSS your belongings anywhere that are dry and in their way, as they need to continue working. They leave behind a heaping mess of a pile with drywall dust on every milimeter of the stuff. For example my brightly colored throw pillows resemble powdered doughnuts.
So it is a contest against the clock of securing your remaining things before they are exposed to the workmen as they go room through room.
The larger your home and the more of a collector you are, the more manic and never-ending this process is: my mantra all week was "I can get this place packed up in a week."
Yeah, right. Not happening. Not even close. Yet we are about three rooms away - not counting the garage and still going through all that wet stuff in boxes that was out there. Stinky and disgusting, I wish I could just toss it all, but FIRST we must document and catalog it as a loss. UGH.
Still, I had a day filled with such intense gratitude, that I had to write about that.
Our local JCC, and the various Chabad communities, local churches, and other social service agencies have been amazing at getting all affected residents what we need to pack - and getting us helpers to pack. There isn't a day that goes by since this began, that I don't have a friend or two or three or four picking up bins, boxes, bubble wrap, tape, and cleaning supplies for me. Oh, and they bring water, lots of water. I am exposed daily to living angels helping us get what we need without having to do extra errands or schlepping.
The sweat labor that has been performed for us is nothing short of miraculous. Just one example is the living angel that brought heavy duty large plastic bins and bubble wrap and proceeded to wrap my china and crystal and every other safe and clean knick-knack away in these bins - about twenty of them! I was so worried about my "stuff" and this woman who I didn't even know, was my rescuer. They are safe and sound and solidly packed thanks to this incredible woman.
Teams of volunteers have come in and packed up room after room, closet after closet, helped us sanitize what was salvagable and even labeled for us.
Then there are the meals. Meal, after meal delivered to our door. (We have declined all of the many invitations we received to go out to eat at a home or event as we don't have a spare second to do that -- see above for manic pace of packing house up.)
For someone who has an 88 year old dad living with us making me responsible for his every meal, and with food being his number one interest and priority in life - "What's for dinner today" is his favorite expression - this is unbelievably appreciated. We get to eat and don't have to stop our manic pursuit.
As if I didn't have enough angels in my life right now in the form of friends and community, helping us in every way possible, suddenly there are gift cards appearing at my home. I am sitting here with a little stack of gift cards for meals and other things that we might need. There are people out there, who are collecting these, and either paying for them, or getting them donated from stores, and going from house to house distributing them.
Since our kitchen is going to be non-functional for the forseeable future, these little dandies assure me of getting dad his meals without extra expense to any of us. I can't tell you what that has meant to me - and I must say, I always thought I was too proud to accept that kind of charity and also, I never thought I would need that kind of charity. (And without dad around, that would still be the case.) It is the kind of thing that is so helpful and makes our very difficult circumstances a bit easier. When our personal friends and Chabad friends tire of bringing us meals, we will be able to use these.
I am in awe of the fact that people are going around, using their own funds to help in this way, or getting donations from businesses, and then they spend their precious time delivering them and declining to take no for an answer when they see the heaping piles of ruined belongings in front of your home. I am just filled with gratitude that there are so very many good people in our community.
Loving messages of concern from near and far have me registering that I am so extraordinarily fortunate to have so many caring people in my life.
I am grateful that I can put my feelings into words that resonate and mean something to people and I am thankful for all the wonderful comments telling me that my writing helps them cope. What a gift that I can actually help someone going through this awful situation, while I am being helped through it by others.
In fact, I have been told that I am the voice of my community as I am blogging this difficult post flood journey fraught with red tape and frustration, for all to share. Here are just two recent messages:
Even though you articulate your rage and frustration so eloquently and are loved by so many, it is understandable that after having a lifetime together building a beautiful home and family you feel overwhelmed having it destroyed and threatened in such a reckless, meaningless, and savage way.
And... You are inspiring many people around the world ... Sharing your personal thoughts , experiences , problems , conflicts , and hard times etc.. have a huge impact on every person who reads your blogs
Last, I heard from a United Way representative today because my number one concern and heartache lately has been where to put my dad during this chaos. We don't have the time or mental capacity to fill out a bunch of paperwork to get him in a safe and temporary place and though my husband and I might stay in the house, dad can't. The United Way is sending a case manager to come and help us complete some sort of process to get dad in temporary quarters. When you are completely and utterly overwhelmed with your circumstances, someone stepping in to find out answers and solutions is an absolute precious gift.
It is nice to take a break from being overwhelmed, exhausted, dusty, and grief-stricken, to drink in this gratitude.
I am in tears while I write this blog - so deep is my gratitude. I wish I could hug every angel out there that has helped us through this daunting process, but I can't except for with my words.
It's one thing for your family and friends to come through for you, but it is extra humbling to have strangers come, and with the utmost care, lighten your load. For anyone out there who was among my personal angels, you will never, ever know how thankful I am for your part in this and for entering my life, even if it was for a brief but critical moment.
Read my regular blog at www.arlenelassin.com.