Today I cried.
We returned to one of the houses from yesterday – the house with the little dogs. Thankfully, they are now being well-cared for and waiting patiently for their injured owner to recover.
We were helping to clear a spot on the property for some heavy equipment to come in and do the big work – moving branches and pieces of lumber, sorting out scrap metal.
We also made an attempt to retrieve some salvageable items and personal belongings – somewhat unsuccessfully, as the debris pile was so incredibly broken. It was literally like “trying to find a needle in a haystack”. Yet here and there we would uncover a small porcelain figurine that was miraculously intact under a pile of cinderblocks and a steel door. There was no pattern to what had survived and what had not.
My tears came when I found an old box of letters – postmarked from the late 1950’s, handwritten in beautiful scrolling penmanship on delicate paper – the kind that was once used for air mail. They appeared to be love letters. The salutation on one of the open pages began: “My Dearest Beloved …” And I read no more, but gave them directly to the person collecting the personal possessions.
It’s difficult to handle the pieces of someone’s life – much more so than I ever could have expected. We tried to save even the smallest items that were intact, because how can you possibly know what might have a special or sentimental meaning to the owner? And to pick up something private and dear like an old letter … well, it can feel almost intrusive.
By mid-afternoon we had done as much as we could at the site, and left to help with a Red Cross van that was delivering hot meals to people in need. The number of people who are able to stay in their homes but are without power (and often water) remains significant. Eating cold sandwiches gets old pretty quickly.
While I am tired, and stinky, and a little bit sunburned … I feel so incredibly fortunate. The people I love are close and safe. I can take a hot shower and drink a cold glass of water – with ice. I have lights, and the little music box that was a gift from my boys is in its place on my bookshelf. My bicycle is not wrapped around a tree. I have clean clothes to change into, and a soft bed to sleep in. I am truly blessed.