Love conquered fear

December 1, 2016 - 12:00am -- Living City

Love conquered fear

When Hurricane Matthew came to visit

At the end of September, meteorologists predicted that “Matthew” would hit Florida either as a tropical storm or a Category 4 hurricane. Having lived through other hurricanes and seen their destructive force, I began preparing a few days before it was expected to arrive. I called the handyman, who said he would be able to secure the one window that was not hurricane impact proof. So I felt assured and went to work.

I care for a woman who has Alzheimer’s and lives in a long-term care center. She has a tendency to wander off, so the staff asked if I would be coming in to be with her during the storm. At that point I wasn’t sure I could.

The storm continued to strengthen to a Category 4, and my area was right in its path, with landfall forecast for Thursday night. Even though my handyman said he would be available to secure the window, on Thursday morning he called to say he wouldn’t be able to come because he had too many calls! I felt helpless and emotionally distraught, knowing that this meant I would probably lose my house to the hurricane.

In my desperation, I called my friends in order to face this challenge together. We prayed for the strength to accept whatever might happen, and I immediately felt at peace. As soon as I hung up, my phone rang. It was another friend who said he was on his way to help! I was stunned! Love conquered my fear.

I knew at that point I had to reciprocate that love, so rather than staying with friends during the storm, I made the final decision to go to the long-term care center. When I arrived, the nurse exclaimed how grateful she was that I was there, as they needed the extra help. I offered my help for anything they may need.

During the afternoon and evening, staff spoke about their anxiety and fear, not knowing what might happen. We constantly reassured and encouraged one another, and I offered my concrete help throughout the duration of the storm: carrying mattresses and belongings to designated rooms, and looking after residents who needed reassurance as well. I listened to those who spoke not only of their anxiety but the suffering in their lives.

Around 10pm, when the storm was 50 miles south of us, we heard it was taking a course away from us. We were so grateful for our good fortune, but then prayed for those still in its path.

The next morning, we were tired but relieved. I was served a hearty breakfast, and then helped the aides make beds and continued to engage residents who remained anxious. Eventually when I returned home, I still had energy to help whichever neighbor needed something.

Throughout the experience — starting from the love I received in the phone call from my friend, to taking on the suffering of those in the care center and loving the neighbor next to me — what remained within me was how our life is a gift from God, and how we are a gift for one another.

I guess any time is the right time to love. Yes, even during a hurricane, and maybe most importantly during a hurricane!

— Linda DuBois