Dizzy, Twirling, Spinning, Torn, & Tattered

Arriving at our Florida home for the winter, we find ourselves in the

IMG_6286 wake of the churning disaster called, “Hurricane Irma”, and the tornadoes this powerful storm spawned.

Irma took a deadly toll as it ravaged the Caribbean, and then turned its toppling winds, rain deluge, and crashing waves to batter Florida, USA.

Many of our neighbours have sustained damage ranging from minor to major. Some have lost everything. Their homes swallowed and then spit out by the tornado, as the hurricane turned their world upside down. The booms, pounding, and rumbles have shaken their bodies, souls, and lives.

We are in a community in recovery. As we walk the quiet streets now mostly clear of debris, we observe the destruction. We hear the people’s stories of the stress and confusion of the situation, all of which has placed heavy demands.

My mind turns back to the health disaster and creation of my ostomy, “Percy”. Like our neighbours who have lived and are now recovering from their natural disaster, the impact is huge for those who survive them.

We usually have strong emotional reactions to these situations. Akin to the grieving process, we go through cycles of intense emotions.

As the hours, weeks, and months go by, most of us have recurring vivid memories of the disaster. These are flashbacks. Sometimes flashbacks are triggered by images or sounds that bring back memories of the event.

Some of us have difficulty concentrating, eating, and sleeping. We can experience physical symptoms in response to stress or trauma. We go into denial, shock, often experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed and numb. This is common.

Like the amazing nurses, doctors, and caregivers that are there for the ostomate, emergency crews, rescue teams, and repair corps, enter the disaster setting and become our life line. This is an emotionally powerful experience for everyone.

“Okay, how do we cope with all of this?”

To begin with, it’s plain hard! For the most part, in the beginning, we feel trapped as we try to stand in the storm. We need to be patient as we give ourselves time to experience the emotions, and try to deal with them as they come. We have to expect things will take a while to create a new normal.

If you feel alone in this, as often happens, ask for support from family, friends, and try a support group of people who have experienced the same thing. The ostomy community worldwide for example, have Ostomy Support Groups in many communities across the globe. Talking to others about your traumatic experience can help lift a heavy burden.

Work on getting a daily routine, we all need to experience some sort of stability in our life. Try to get plenty of sleep, and remember to eat healthy. Take care of your body, this will help in easing the stress on your mind. If you don’t experience relief, contact a psychologist or counsellor for extra support.

The bottom line is: Take it one bit and one bite at a time. Try not to tear off a whole chunk all at once.

“How do we go beyond coping and start healing?’

The majority of people will take whatever steps are available to protect and comfort themselves.  Individuals and communities in recovery will reconstruct themselves, gradually assimilating the disaster into their history, and continue the process of healing. Communities like people, have an amazing capacity to adapt to dramatic events and go on with life. People and communities undergo permanent change which has to be integrated with past and future.

People generally are for each other, helping those in need where possible. We certainly observe this quality in our Florida neighbours as they recover and rebuild.

An extraordinary outcome of surviving health and natural disasters is; “POSITIVE REAWAKENING”.

From the moment we become aware and feel gratitude for having survived we never look at the sky the same way again. The blueness is now so brilliant. The storm clouds so lurking with power. We become astounded at the startling intensity of biting into a piece of fresh fruit. The sunset reveals such exquisite colours. And so on…

Arriving at our Florida home for the winter, we find ourselves in the midst of toppled trees and damaged homes. We are part of a community that only a few months ago was twirled, spun, torn, and tattered. Yet, it is a cohesive community bound together by strong and resilient folks, bent on helping and supporting one another to rebuild their lives and each other one bit and one bite at a time.

Authored by:

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Percy Stoma

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

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On a Wing and a Prayer

My nose pressed against the window, the plane is transporting us across the sky, we are headed for Orlando, Florida airport. From my cramped seat I lower my tearful eyes downward. The wisps of white clouds are racing by. With a deep sigh and a heavy heart, I lift my eyes up to the brilliant fluffy white clouds above. Beams of sunlight pour through the openings. Shafts of brilliance holding the hope that this is all just a dreamtime. But, I know I am not dreaming, and I miss her greatly.

You see, it was 2 years ago at our winter home in Florida when we headed down to the lagoon. There we enjoyed the wild dolphins, birds, water, clouds and every other treasure nature can offer. The first of what would become our daily 4:00 p.m. ritual.

We arrived and settled down on a bench and I looked over to my left and there, sitting in her wheelchair was an elderly woman. Beside her was an elderly gentleman in his golf cart. Both were looking out to the water. It was then that she looked over to us, and gave me a brilliant smile. Her smile lit up my heart, and it has glowed with her light ever since.

We walked over to introduce ourselves and the gentleman said; “Pleased to meet you. My name is Bill, and this lovely lady is my wife Straucie. She had a stroke a number of years ago and it took away her ability to speak.”

I said, “Oh that’s okay, I can’t hear well, she can’t talk well, hmm… we’ll find a way. From that day forward, Straucie and I had many lively conversations. Somehow, Straucie and I found our ways to communicate. Straucie could say a few words such as a long drawn out, “yeees”. With her facial expressions, animated body language, and her sharp mind, we discussed life, struggles, blessings, and all manner of the stuff of life. Bill and my husband Mark were often perplexed as to how Straucie and I could have discussions. At one point during our conversation, I would turn to the fellas and say, “Straucie was just telling me…”, the fellas would look at me and Straucie with crooked smiles, and then Straucie would give them a determined nod and say, “yeees”. Yup, we had discussed and understood one another!

Bill and my husband Mark talked about football, politics, and all manner of interests to them. Bill shared many stories of he and Straucie’s life together, and I must say they had us laughing at their adventures and antics.

Just about every day our feisty Straucie would head down to the lagoon at top motorized wheelchair speed with a glowing smile on her face, while Bill followed her in his golf cart. Straucie’s body was paralyzed on the right side, and at 93 years of age, Bill was taking care of her, the house, and meals with the full and consistent assistance of their dear daughter Sandy, and son-in-law, Mark. Together as a team their beloved Straucie was well taken care of.

Our love for Straucie and Bill grew to include Sandy, Mark, their children and grandchildren. Friends became like family and family like friends. As mentioned, the stroke had robbed Straucie of her ability to speak full sentences, but as we found out, she was able to sing. So sing we did! Straucie had a lovely singing voice and when she sang, many words came out clear. Together we sang her favourite hymns, and other songs including some silly ones like: Mairzy Doats which is a novelty song written and composed, in 1943, by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston. The songs refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless, but it is not.

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey,

A kiddly divy too, wooden shoe…

We would both melt into giggles and laughter with the silly words. She amazed me with her ability to articulate each word, in tune and on pitch.

In the weeks before Christmas of last year, Straucie, Sandy and I went shopping. Straucie and I purchased matching Christmas sweaters. Both of us refused to wear them until Christmas day. We sure had fun being twins for a day!

We are snowbirds, Florida is our winter home only, so in May it was time to head north and return to Canada. We bid our tearful good byes with the promise we will be returning in November. We text Bill just about everyday and send pictures of our summer adventures for their delight.

In early August, Straucie fell ill. Although everyone did all that they could, our Straucie succumbed to her illness, and on the wings of angels she passed, August 14th, 2017.

With my nose pressed against the window, we are on our way to give our final good bye to the lady that lit our hearts with the brilliant light of joyful friendship, family, and love.

Bill, Sandy, Mark, granddaughter Michelle, other family and friends, gave Straucie a celebration of life she would have been delighted with. Songs were sung. Poetry, and a letter she wrote to Bill were read at the gravesite. Personal stories shared. All of this was enveloped in the love we have and hold for friends like family, and family like friends.

We miss you Straucie, we will always hold you in our thoughts. You cozied up in our hearts, and you will forever have a soft place to be lovingly remembered. Thank you for you our beloved.

With all of our love, Jo-Ann, Mark, and Percy xo

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