Thursday, April 23, 2009

What the Storm Saw

I have an amazingly good memory.

I remember things from years ago in sharp detail - some I wish I didn't. Details about funerals and illnesses and arguments and uncomfortable moments. Mostly, though, the memories are good - I can tell you what I wore to a certain party when I was 5, or how I felt when one of my friends let me hold a kitten for the first time. What I ate, smelled, heard and learned...lots and lots of little things over lots and lots of time.

However, when I became pregnant and had Dawson, my memory changed. It's not as sharp, and it takes me longer to remember things that should be no issue at all. I've read that some doctors think it's because as a mom, my mind is occupied with caring for another human; others think it's because biologically, my brain actually did shrink as my baby grew.

Whatever the reason, I know my memory isn't as sharp.

Which is why, for two weeks now, my mind has been haunted by thoughts of the woman that was killed in Good Friday's tornado.

There are two distinct memories I have from that day. The first is how amazingly loud and clear the birds sang after the storm was over. It was as if an entire chorus of birds were rejoicing that they were still flying. The second is how in the same moment that I heard the birds singing, I heard sirens. Sirens of police cars and ambulances and fire trucks, blaring just an octave or two higher than the birds, signaling that the destruction, was, in fact, very bad.

I had no idea. I had no power, no television, no internet, no way of knowing what was happening in the town I call home. I had a few friends calling or texting, telling me what they had seen. But it still didn't register with me how bad it was.

Then, Michelle told me, "There's a girl that's been killed - her baby, too."

Tears came to my eyes. Somewhere, in my town, a girl - like me - with a baby - like me - was gone.

I couldn't get it out of my mind.

Then, on Easter Sunday, after eating with family and hunting eggs, I returned home to finally see her picture on the news.

I know that girl.

But from where?

I watched the news story over and over again, went on-line to find her picture, read her biography, learned where she worked, what she was remembered for.

And still - my stupid memory wouldn't work. It was like a slow-loading computer - and the file still wasn't complete.

How many women in the town can be named Kori? Not many. Think, Lauren, think.

And then - Saturday morning, I woke up, and it instantly clicked in my head.

I rented to her. She was a tenant.

Yesterday, I went to the office, opened the file drawer to 618 C Fairview, and saw her name in black and white - in my handwriting.

Kori Dudek.

I knew her before she was Kori Bryant - before she was a mother and a wife. I knew her as the tenant who wouldn't stop calling me about her fireplace not working, as the woman who complained that she was getting colds because the dust in the fireplace was so bad. I remember thinking, "Woman, this is not the Hilton. This is a one-bedroom apartment in a 40-year-old triplex. Get a broom and some Claritin and get over it."

I'm glad I didn't say it out loud. I'm glad I was kind. I'm glad I went out of my way to make sure the fireplace got fixed and cleaned. I'm glad I called and apologized and thanked her for always paying on time and making my job easier. I'm glad I complimented her on her unusual name when she signed her lease and told her she could plant as many flowers as she wanted around the front door after she moved in.

I'm glad I remember all of that.

Because on Good Friday, the storm saw me, ignorant, holding Dawson in my closet, wondering what all the fuss was about.

It saw Michelle's son and mother, crouched in the bathtub, waiting for the wind to stop blowing.

It saw Kori and her daughter, Olivia, huddled in the hallway surrounded by mattresses, with no idea that the night before would be the last night they would sleep on them.

My memory isn't as great as it was, but I will remember Kori Bryant.

I will remember the next time I take rental calls or sign a lease, go to the grocery store or the carwash, the drive-through or the bank - that those people are not labeled by what they do or who they are to me. They are real; they are moms and wives and daughters and dads and sons and brothers.

And I will remember that you cannot do a kindness too soon, because you don't know how soon it will be too late.



zentmrs said...

Oh goodness! Thanks for sharing that with us.

Whitney said...

Way to make me bawl at work on a Thursday afternoon. What a great reminder, though. Thank you for sharing this.

Micah said...

Such a sad, sad story. Rosie went to high school with her husband, and posted a while back about going to the viewing. I just can't imagine. I've been praying for her family.

Meagan said...

POWERFUL WORDS! Your writing always amazes and moves me (usually either to tears or fits of laughter). Beautiful. Thank you!

Michelle said...

I will never forget that day. And can you believe that out of all places I run into David in Knoxville and it was so nice to see a friend when I needed one.

Trying to wait the storm out so I could get home to my Mom and my son.

It is so sad. Everytime I go to Mom's now I still have to see the memorial in that ladies front yard. She was not even 100 yards from my Mom's house. Still the "It's a girl" sign in the yard.

Allyson said...

Wow, great post, Lauren. Thanks for reminding us all what's important!

Megan L Hutchings said...

I would like to ditto everything Meag said. Your words always move us to feel and I love you for that.

I understand what you mean about your memory. It can be frustrating at times, but God always knows what He wants us to remember.

Justin and Jessica said...

Wow - thanks for sharing! You are an amazing writer.

Lauren Kelly said...

All I can say is WOW, Lauren. There truly are no words. Thank you so much for sharing!

Rachel Wheat said...

So sad. I didn't realize until days later that we knew her husband. I went to high school with him and his younger brother. You just never know, do you?