Hurricane Sally was not my first hurricane, but it was a hurricane of several firsts.
- First serious hurricane as an adult.
- First serious hurricane as a homeowner.
- First serious hurricane as a business owner.
My experience with Sally was much different than that with Hurricane Ivan exactly 16 years prior, when I was just a freshman in high school. At 15, I was excited for “no school” and had much to learn about the lasting impact a natural disaster has on families, businesses, and livelihoods.
Sally’s strength took our home by surprise. We were underprepared.
Matt and I had full tanks of gas and batteries for flashlights, but that was it. I’m ashamed to say we were up at 2:30 am Wednesday morning fighting against the wind to move a few things inside from our back porch.
In the end, we were incredibly blessed.
Our backyard has six towering oak trees with branches that were snapped by the storm and thrown like spears around our yard. Yet not a single branch hit a window or damaged our roof.
Our new home that is under construction was spared too.
Other than minimal water intrusion at the office, the office was alright.
Our biggest obstacle was no power. We were without power for 4 days and 4 nights and we were not prepared when it came to food.
On Day 2, we discovered that Matt’s office and my office had power. We settled into a routine of taking cold showers and then heading up to Matt’s office to heat up some breakfast and relish a hot cup of coffee.
We moved the contents of our fridge into coolers and the frozen top of our wedding cake to the freezer at my office. I am SO excited we were able to save our Betty Weber cake for our one-year anniversary!
We spent Thursday cleaning up the yard. It just so happens I’d recently bought yard gloves.
Several local restaurants and a thoughtful friend provided us with warm meals until our power was restored on Saturday afternoon.
Sally helped me realize just how many blessings I take for granted:
3) Air conditioning
4) Hot food
5) Cold drinking water
6) Warm shower water
8) Unfettered access to grocery stores and restaurants.
Living without those things, even for only a few days, was mentally challenging.
What I haven't shared on this blog yet that many of you may not know is that I am an openly recovering alcoholic. I have been sober for a little over 5 1/2 years now.
One of the many “tools” I have learned from my recovery program is to use an “attitude of gratitude” to escape from the destructive thinking of self-pity.
I didn’t have to look far to find gratitude after Hurricane Sally:
1) My family was safe.
2) My pets were safe.
3) Neither of our homes were damaged.
4) Our offices weren’t damaged.
5) We had cell phone reception to communicate with our loved ones.
6) We had batteries for cell phones and lights.
7) The weather was unseasonably cool.
8) We had access to food and water.
9) Our community banded together to help one another.
10) I had gloves for the yard.
11) We saved the top of our wedding cake.
12) Lineman were traveling from all across the country and even from Canada to restore our power.
This list could go on.
Staying focused on gratitude helped me remain positive in the days immediately after Hurricane Sally and will help me remain positive as our community rebuilds in the days ahead.
I know many people in our community suffered devastating damage and loss much greater than the mere yard debris at our house. Having lived in a home that flooded during Hurricane Ivan, I empathize with the severe impact the storm has had on their lives.
Loss of any kind-- especially loss of shelter and personal effects from a hurricane--can leave you feeling hopeless and unsure of what comes next.
When I am working with families coping with the loss of family member, I encourage each family to hand the stress, worry, and the uncertainty of next legal steps over to me. It is my job to relieve the aching families of the fear of the unfamiliar so they can focus on their journeys of healing and supporting one another.
Without an experienced guide, the probate process can be like climbing a tall, dark, daunting mountain. But with a guide to shine the light and show the way, it can evolve into a series of easy baby steps, taken one at a time.
If you are coping with the loss of a family member, download our free Survivor Checklist: Six Steps to Take After a Loved One Dies in Florida to help shine the light and organize the steps for you to take next.
Lauren “Grateful Beyond Measure” Merritt