Today, my heart hurts. The fires in Fort McMurray are devastating. Our province has been hit by the economic downturn and Fort McMurray was definitely one of the areas that have been hit the hardest with lay offs in oil and now this.
In the same moment, I have hope. I know if there is one thing Albertans can do is...RALLY.
We have big hearts and give beyond measure. I know this because our family has experienced this first hand through the Calgary flood in 2013.
I encourage you to give where you can and it does not need to be financial. I am reminded of the letter I wrote (below), a year after the flood, there are many ways we can give, even if we don't have the finances.
Give your time, a place to stay, a sympathetic ear, give your old furniture, make a meal or babysit kids. Giving can happen in all different ways from friends, family and strangers.
Come hell, high water or fire - we will get through this, together.
Attention Evacuated Residents: Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, location and confirmation of safety.
#AlbertaStrong #fmmfire #ymmfire
Written June 21, 2014 - 1 year after the Calgary Flood.
Last year, at this time, I had not slept, we thought we had lost our house. We left it at 3 am with water coming through our windows and doors - it was a 100 year old bungalow house and I was pretty sure that was the last time we would ever live in it again. We walked out with a backpack on our backs, our cat in my purse and knee deep in water.
Devastating doesn't even begin to describe the emotions we felt.
Our basement was destroyed but just a block down peoples basements and main floors were destroyed, a couple houses were even knocked down. As I began to look around, although we lost all of our "stuff" we were some of the lucky ones.
My heart hurt for my daughters as their bedrooms were in the basement. It wasn't about the "stuff" but the memories this stuff held. Our daughter's baby blanket covered in mud & sewage. My first teddy bear ravaged by the floods. This was the "stuff" that could never be replaced.
Here I sit a year later and I quietly, internally, refuse to commemorate the flood.
Because it sucked a year of our life away. My husband and I spent months in that basement renovating it ourselves to save money. Our 3 daughters, 11, 11 & 13 lived in a small bedroom together for over 6 months. The flood ripped away our family time together.. and at times our sanity.
In these moments what I hold onto are the people. The 15 complete strangers who were in our house just days after the flood removing all of our mud, filthy, ruined stuff.
The family who barely knew us and just had a brand new baby open up their house to us and let us stay there for a month after the flood.
The friends who brought us food, sent cards, emails, calls...
My work who brought my daughters new art supplies and teddy bears so they could have comfort just days after the flood. Then they fundraised additional money so we could replace our daughters bedrooms.
The friend my husband hadn't seen in over 20 years, drove all the way from BC with a huge truck filled with all the building supplies we would need to rebuild our house.
I hold onto my friend secretly building a website so that we could keep people up to date without having to tell the story over and over again.
My other friend who helped me put together my daughters temporary room even though she was hung over!
And this woman who I was buying refinished furniture from on Kijiji who ended up just giving 4 pieces of furniture for free.
And my friends who just showed up whenever we needed them to move, build, clean... donating beds, comic books, plumbing, building supplies... and their time!
My husband who was stronger than I could have ever be, who committed to rebuilding our house, even though he worked full time and was building a business. He turned this flood ravaged house back into our home.
My beautiful daughters who have full hearts and were gracious with each other and turned their 6 months in 1 room into a 1 big long sleep over!
My mom who flew in just to paint our basement... and encouraged me when I cried so many times this year.
And the church.. so many people who gave and didn't even know who we are but wanted to help. Without the church our daughters would not have clothes or winter jackets or shoes.. all those things you don't even realize you lost in the flood until that season hits.
On the 1 year anniversary of the flood, I needed to have a "normal" day; one where I went to work, saw my kids and laughed with my husband. But the memories stayed with me and on my way home as the thunder and lightening started... the rain came pouring down.. then so did my tears.
I stepped out of the car and turned around to the most beautiful rainbow. I cried again. I felt like God was promising me something in that moment.
I ran inside, grabbed my husband, and we held hands and took a walk in the pouring rain, thunder and lightening (with no jackets!). We went down to see the river and just breathe.
So I will commemorate the flood in the heart of remembering all those who gave selflessly. Who gave where they were most abundant & talented. This has changed us and moved us into a deeper understanding of what this life is really all about.
And now every time I see a rainbow, I will remember all who helped our family, our city & our province.