In remembrance.

I am finally in Seattle. Three weeks in Alabama doing disaster relief after the tornadoes reached its end and I made my way to Utah for a family wedding. After the rush and whirlwind of the past month I am finally back in my own home, back in my cubicle at work, back to normal life. Can you believe I didn't step foot into my office during the month of May? That blows my mind!

Tonight I spent an amazing evening listening to live music, sounds that tickled my fancy and stimulated my senses. The Parson Red Heads had an amazing lady-drummer, a multi-tasker that played percussion, sang vocal back-up, and stepped out and played the harmonica for their final number. Then Alela Diane and the Wild Divine stepped to the stage, the wholeness of the 5 part band immediately drawing my attention into their music. I was all smiles and happy dancing and feeling good. Alela Diane has been singing in my ear for years now, crooning her sweet melodies and keeping me company with her haunting voice. They played my favorite songs including a couple solos by the lady herself, the last of which was Oh My Mama.

And suddenly there was the prickly feeling of tears in my eyes, the ache in my throat that signaled emotion. Of all the times for those memories to come rushing back why during the encore, the very last song?

If you take a look at the lyrics of the song or listen to them yourself at the youtube link above, you will hear the fragility of life, the beauty of childhood and motherhood and the life that is given when family is created. When mama tells you to fly, to become the child, the woman, the mother you eventually might be, you take the life that she gave and you go with it.

But that line, "Oh my Mama, She took my little hand and held on tight."

And so in memory...

To the mother who held her daughter's hand tight, who reassured her grandchildren of her love, who did everything right by huddling together in the bathroom and instructing the family into bathtub. The mother who watched the roof go first, the walls next, and then the bathtub into the winds. The mother whose family's hands slowly, in agony, slipped from her own.

To the mother who spoke with her twenty-something daughter across state lines via telephone minutes before the tornado tore through the home, uprooting her life in an instant when her daughter went missing. The travels, long search, the confusion, then finding an ending. The mother who, upon meeting, held me with a desperation in her hands and told me that I reminded her of all she had lost, that my long hair was just like her daughters, that I should embrace what life I have left because her only child's bright future was gone in an instant. The mother who looked at me with shock in her eyes and gasped in sudden, tearful realization, "Oh god.... what about her birthday? And Christmas, Christmas was her holiday."

To the mother who spends every day at the hospital, waiting for a response, waiting to learn if her daughter will make it. For days that have turned into weeks.

To the grandmother who did the best she could in the circumstances and took her grandbabies into the interior closet, holding them close and wishing for the best. Standing in the hospital room while the family bore the news to a grandmother no longer comatose, the daughter explained what happened is a loss too deep for them to bear alone, that their lives are in God's hands just like her two babies' souls that will forever rest in peace.

To the mother who made a truly miraculous recovery from near-death, who can now embrace her husband and son again.

To the mother whose daughter made it through with nothing more than a scrape, but whose teenage son will only live on in photos, memories and stories.

To the son whose family spent days searching the rubble for their mother, a woman that had lived a full and vibrant life. The son who suffers post-vietnam flashbacks, who explained in grim detail the ways her body compared to the bodies he recovered in the war.

To the daughter who has her own family to look after, but must also see to the final arrangements for her parents and sibling. The daughter who is getting a self-taught crash course in the difficulties of tracking down insurance policies, account information and the final will and testament when any documents that existed were spread hundreds of miles.

To all the individuals and families I spoke with and learned from, who suffered life's greatest tragedies and losses, who had that glazed, faraway look in their eyes as the sober reality of the situation dawned on them again, and again, and time again, you are all in my heart. I am deeply grateful for your willingness to share and trust. I am deeply grateful for the short relationships we established when I walked past your hospital room every day, or when you welcomed me into your home. 15 to 20 different families I met with, somewhere between 10 and 15 fatalities in those families altogether.

In memory.


  1. Such heartache for so many people. I am so proud of you and glad you are helping so many with your caring heart
    Love you

  2. Thanks for sharing Mandy!! You are a caring and loving person. It was so GREAT to see you!! You looked beautiful and happy!!!!


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