Today we came home around 6 pm and I went right into the kitchen to put on my apron. My friend Cynthia, who works a lot with PTSD and relief workers, suggested this past summer that when I come back home after being out each day, it might help to have a ritual to help me “take off” the grief and burdens that I have been emerged in and become more present with my family. So when I come home and I love to put on my new red polka-dotted apron (thanks L & R!) to help my mind, heart, and body switch into mom gear and focus on the needs of my children and husband. Tonight I was looking forward to tasting my favorite fall crockpot dish made with sweet potatoes, pork, and fennel that I had prepared before leaving this morning.
This was a day filled with a lot of stories and pain. During the Nozomi project, my friend Y. only worked a half day, and then went to the car to rest because her mind and stomach hurt and she couldn’t concentrate due to despair. This happens most days. I prayed for her, and then she went out and rested in her car for a couple of hours. She called again tonight, struggling a lot. We prayed again. N. came in during lunch, but she brought her own crocheting today instead of making jewelry with the rest of the group. When I asked her why, she said her leg has been particularly painful and she hadn’t been able to take the pain meds that she takes every day. She said it hurt too much to concentrate. (She had been dragged in her house by the tsunami, with her leg caught. Her leg barely escaped amputation, but has been a source of great pain ever since). N. is taking anti-depressants as well for the trauma. I prayed with her for the pain and the challenges of this day. She told us recently that since she has been coming to the Nozomi project, her husband has been getting mad because she seems to be recovering too quickly. He lost his parents in the tsunami, and isn’t ready to move towards recovery yet.
Then in the later afternoon we had our weekly English kids class during which the moms gather in the next door building for tea and sharing. It has become a special community-building time for these moms. For the past two months, my school mom friend H. has been coming with her two kids- they love it and so does she. (She is my school informant – she has learned to call me when there are any major events at either Olivia’s kindergarten or the elementary school to be sure I haven’t missed something. She is GOLD!) H. and I have spent a lot of time talking at school while waiting for our kids. But tonight, she shared more details that I didn’t know about March 11, 2011 for her…
She was at the dentist with her daughter. Her son (six at the time) had returned home from kindergarten (he was to graduate five days later – it ended up being postponed for several weeks) and was with his grandmother. After the earthquake, his grandfather came home, and so did H.’s brother. They realized that a tsunami might come and began to make plans to evacuate because their home was right by the sea. But it was too late- they heard a loud crash and saw the tsunami wall (which really did nothing in light of the craziness of this tsunami) break up as the tsunami began rushing towards them. A fire truck was coming around making a final plea for citizens to leave. The grandfather and uncle pushed H.’s son and the grandmother onto the fire truck and shut the door quickly because the water was already up to their thighs. They urged the driver to hurry away, and thankfully it was able to arrive safely at the elementary school, serving as the local evacuation center. R. and his grandmother rushed up the stairwell with the other firemen and were able to get up high enough before the water began pouring in.
The next day, the uncle showed up at the school- he had managed to survive the tsunami. It was a full week before they found H.’s dad’s body. He did not survive.
Six months later, R. was lying in bed and he called his mom over. H. went over and he whispered, “Mommy, when we were climbing the steps of the school that day…. I looked out the windows. I saw people floating by. I can’t forget even if I close my eyes.”
That was the only time he has ever mentioned it. But I am quite sure he has never forgotten. At the close of our ladies’ tea time, we prayed for R. and the other children with the memories that are still in their hearts when they close their eyes. We prayed for H.’s mom, who is now living alone in a temporary housing, having lost her home and her husband.
I am thankful for my red apron because it really does seem to help me to be more present for my wonderful family. But really – I am more thankful for God’s sweet invitation to cast all of my cares on Him (I Peter 5:7) on nights like this when the apron doesn’t quite work its magic.