Last night was an “active” meteorological night, as spring nights often are in this state. I was up just a tad later than usual watching the weather. We are too far out in the country to have weather sirens. I am thankful for our television weather coverage.
I phoned MIL to ask if she would like to join me—she declined, stalwart that she is. We missed the tornado activity, it moving through on the opposite side of our city, leaving some devastation in its path.
As I write this, it is early morning and I am only getting a smattering of reports, but it seems that there was damage and perhaps death in some parts of our state. Every spring’s business here. Growing up, I used to talk to my California cousins when they came to visit, wondering how they could possibly make through each day when their state was slated to fall off the continent at any moment. "You’ll be carried off by a tornado before that happens!” was their frequent rejoinder.
But, you know, I’ve gone most of my life without any brush with tornadoes, even though our area is “active.” As I sat in my den last night watching this most recent wave of weather, I thought back to the single and only time I have experienced a tornado first hand. It was a strange experience in more ways than one.
It was a spring night, probably six or so years ago—really, it was early, early morning—and my husband was out of town. That left my mother and me alone in the house. Mom lived with us at the time, having been widowed by L’s death a couple years prior.
I awoke about 4 a.m., which is not unusual for me. It was a weekend, but I am an early riser all days, I am afraid. This morning, I just knew I was “up,” so I began the coffee. As it brewed, here came Mom down the stairs from her room.
Now, seeing Mom up at 4:30 a.m. was like seeing the Red Sea part…this just does not happen. Her bedroom is upstairs, opposite side of the house from the kitchen, so I did not worry that I had awakened her with my early-morning noise. I said, “What on earth! Why are you up?”
Mom replied, “I just woke up and could tell I would be awake for good. I thought I’d come on down. Glad to see you’re up!”
We chatted a moment. She sat down at the breakfast room table with her coffee. We noticed that rain began to fall.
All my life I have heard that a tornado sounds exactly like a freight train coming. I knew immediately what was happening. I turned and bolted toward Mom—“Hurry!” I said, “Let’s get in the hallway!”
As I steered her out of the breakfast room, noise grew. I could see the nine-foot plate glass picture window behind her “breathing” in and out. Weird. I expected it to “pop” out any second.
We made it to the interior of the house just as the noise reached a frightening level. It seemed to me that the whole house strained, but it could have been just my reaction to the noise. It seemed to last a long time—probably wasn’t more than 90 seconds or so. When the noise was gone, so was the electricity.
Mom and I made it through the dark house to the back porch. We stepped out into stillness. Several pieces of my wicker porch furniture were gone. We sat down on the remaining chairs and waited for the light to come.
As we sat there, Mom said quietly, “Do you know why I came downstairs?”
Odd. I had actually asked her that… “Well, you said that it was because you could not go back to sleep.”
“Well, that’s part of it,” Mom replied. “What happened was that I heard L’s voice. He very, very distinctly said my name. It’s what woke me up, and I recognized in that voice an urgency. It was so loud and real, that I looked to see where he was standing. I knew I could not go back to sleep, that I had best come downstairs. I believe L was warning me of this tornado.”
Well, that was a shocker. I believed her. For one thing, she would not make this up; for another, she would not BE up at that hour unless something unusual had happened. I pondered this: If L was really trying to communicate with her, what was his purpose? The tornado left my home pretty much unscathed. If L, in his post-life presence, knew of the tornado coming, shouldn’t he also have known that it would not harm us?
I told my husband about it when he returned, and we discussed my questions. “Think about it, C,” he offered. “If Mom had not come down when she did, she would have been upstairs, alone, amidst all that racket and in the dark. She would have tried to get downstairs, and no telling what could have happened. It was a very good thing she was already down there with you when it occurred. L did good.”
And he was right. It could have been terrible. However you explain Mom’s decision to get up, it was a blessing.
As the morning dawned, we could see the downed limbs from trees, and the driveway was strewn with litter. We found my missing wicker chairs in our woods on the opposite side of the house from the porch. The only explanation was that they had been sucked out from under our 12-foot porches, taken over the roof of our house and dumped there. Other than that, there was no damage to the house.
As I am writing this, I hear that it seems there could be death caused by tornadoes last night. I pray for those families and also for those who are now displaced by the destruction of their homes.
And, as for L’s involvement in my only experience with a tornado, well, who can say? I really don’t know what I believe about the afterlife and the possibility of consciousness and communication after death. But I will say this: Something happened. And it dovetailed nicely into just what we needed at the moment. Just makes you wonder….C