On Monday, August 22nd, my dear friends Heidi, Sue and Bonnie, along with countless family members and friends hosted a fundraiser for Tersiguel’s. When Heidi had contacted me on Wednesday, August 3rd to let me know of the beginning plans, I began thinking about what I would say to every person that has helped us along in the recovery efforts and the internal healing. Below is the transcript. If you were unable to attend that event, this thanks is for you. Michel and I have such thankfulness, gratitude and love in our hearts for each person that has reached out to us during this time.
I wanted to share somethings that I have learned over the last few weeks. Some of them are about myself and my family, some are painful, some are humorous.
When you experience a flood your first response is safety. I wasn’t at Tersiguel’s that night. Michel, my brother Jesse, my sister-in-law Casey, who was my window into what they were experiencing, our staff, and forty guests were there. You think about safety. Is my family safe? Is our staff safe? Are our guests safe? You take a deep breath, you shed some quick tears from worry, and you thank God that they are safe.
Once your realize everyone is safe, and you see the damage and destruction, you’re overwhelmed with waves of guilt. Guilt that you are safe, when two families lost loved ones. Guilt that your building stood the test of time. Guilt that the resources you could use to help your neighbor are all gone. Guilt that you dream of moving forward knowing not everyone else will be able to.
After the guilt and the process of acceptance, you are slammed with waves of grief. I remember early on my mom texting me, and my only response was “Grief is a real MFer.” I really did type that because she may have been mad otherwise.
Grief cuts sharper and deeper than I could ever comprehend. Grief is all consuming. It pulls us in every direction. It has ups, it has downs. It’s real. Grief is darkness. Darkness everywhere. Darkness all the time, every day and every night. Darkness. Grief is something we think we easily sweep under the rug; out of fear, out of frustration, out of anger, out of bitterness. The problem, grief doesn’t like it under the rug. It keeps coming out. Facing grief, accepting grief, processing grief has been the most humbling experience of my life. Accepting that it exists has shed light into the darkness.
After grief is anger. Anger all the time. Anger at our business decisions. Anger at work stoppage and laying off our family and friends. Anger at the 8 million unanswered questions. Anger is a good driving force, but it’s only good for sprinting, not marathons. And friends, this a marathon.
Red tape is the meanest SOB you will ever meet. It is darker, thicker and stronger than you can imagine. Every day I reminded myself to sharpen the scissors.
On Saturday, July 30th, the flood shut down our community, and business. On Monday, August 1st, Michel and I accepted that our staff would have to be laid off. On Tuesday, August 2nd, we realized Michel’s pick up truck would be classified as a “total loss.” We both just stood side by side and thought out loud, ‘it can’t get much worse.” Oh does God have a sense of humor. Just hours after, our youngest son Landon would be hospitalized for five days from a severe asthma attack.
For the first time in my adult life, I could honestly say I realized God had a greater plan for us. It’s easy to say it in the good times, but in the depths of despair, I clung to a vision that God had for us, even though I could not see it, and I still can’t, I know it’s there.
I can actually look back and see the beginning of it. My cousin Andrew started working for Fernand and Odette in 1996. He recruited my cousin Katie, and to say this is the slippery slope of events is an understatement. Katie went on to recruit 13 other family members including me.
I had a terrible crush on Michel from the very beginning. It took some growing up and other life events to bring us together. When you take marriage vowels – no one thinks about “for worse.” No one can even imagine what it means. I will say this, Michel is the best person to be experiencing “for worse” with. He let me cry and sob and scream and go into the darkness as I coped with what his family had built for forty years, and what he and I have built together in the last ten.
God blessed us with two incredible little people. Lucas and Landon bring so much joy and light into our lives. These last three weeks they have shown me they are the strongest fighters I know. They have shown me what it means to dig deep and fight even when I felt like giving up.
Through our Tersiguel’s family, we learned of Trinity School, and early on we knew we wanted Lucas and Landon to attend school there. Two summers ago, at a planned Trinity Kindergarten event, I met a mom. We bonded over some silly remark I had made, and that laid the ground work for a friendship of a lifetime. It’s the same mom who pushed me, and organized our go fund me, and along with some incredible moms that I have met and become friends with over the last two years came together to plan this special night. God truly has a sense of humor.
I learned the power of the iPhone. On this device, I received text messages, Facebook messages, emails, and phone calls from people far and wide saying, “We love you. We want to help you. We will bear this burden with you.” When I thought for sure I could not longer pick up my legs to go one more step forward, someone would say “I love you. I am thinking of you. I am routing for you.”
I learned the power of help. Help is all around. After the events of September 11th, there was a quote from Fred Rogers that said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Help is all around. I never realized how many lives Michel and I touched, Fernand and Odette have touched, even Lucas and Landon have touched until we needed help. It comes out of the woodwork, coming up from the wells, coming down the chimneys, coming from every angle. Help sheds all the light into darkness.
We have been overwhelmed by love and help. In our weakest moments, Michel and I have taken time to read messages of love, encouragement, compassion, and strength. Each of you managed to prop us up when we couldn’t hold ourselves up.
In my family, there is a Thanksgiving tradition. Dessert is not served until we have all (35 or more people) said something we are thankful for. There will never be enough Thanksgiving dinners for Michel and I to say how thankful we are for each of you, the gift you are to us, and the gift you have given us.