I stood knee deep in slimy muck, near tears as I pulled old tapes out of the goo. There were reel to reel tapes, 8-track tapes and video tapes, cassette tapes, and Super-8 films all combined in an anthropological layering of the march through entertainment and sentimentality of the last 80 years. I knew this was their life. Their interests, their experiences and there I stood, tasked with tossing it away. The weight of that action was overwhelming to someone who has spent much of her life helping others save their stories.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and as I turned the homeowner I was helping to muck out after a flood said, “It’s okay, it’s a relief actually, we were drowning in stuff and things we needed to go through, to categorize and decide what to do with it. It’s done now.” With that she opened a new garbage bag and filled it with a life well lived and now completely undone.
Later in the day I watched an elderly woman turn from her task of unloading a flooded closet and sit on the seat of her walker. In her hands she held a doll, with yarn hair and nondescript clothing, which she placed, so lovingly, on a small wicker chair. She washed a bit of mud off the face, handed the whole thing to a volunteer with the request to place it on a high shelf. She directed exactly how to turn the doll and then she sighed and smiled. She said “That’s good.” A tiny bit of normal in a world of chaos.
During the day I watched her laugh as she uncovered treasures and cry as she threw some away. Before an army of volunteers (who swarmed her house like ants) arrived, she had been working for almost three weeks; just her, her walker, a gargantuan task and an attitude that said ‘move forward’. She told me how she had been in the yard one day, early in the task, when her walker got stuck in the mud. She was there for an eternity when someone she didn’t know came by, got a hose from the sump pump and “washed away my ‘stuckness’ so I could get back to work.”
It all made me think that there is a blessing in a flood, just as there is a blessing in any event that brings people together and tasks them with moving forward. We humans join hands, provide hugs, laugh and cry, and together we figure out how to wash away our ‘stuckness’ and embrace what is important. So, friend, I don’t wish for you a flood, but I do hope you can wash away your ‘stuckness.’ It is a good day to move forward.