Friday, October 07, 2005

The Greatest Losses of All

It’s taken me a little while to write, or even mention very much about the things I lost that hurt the most. At first it was too painful to think about it in detail, and then I pulled something in my neck and back, trying to do too much around here, and have spent a number of days that mostly consisted of me in bed staring at nothing, waiting for the pain to go away, for my neck and back to heal enough for me to get back to work on the thousands of things I need to do.

There was other pain there too though, emotional pain. Too much time to think, to relive, to regret. Most of that pain came from a couple of boxes of belongings that the flood waters of Katrina took away from me. They weren’t things that money could replace, like my furniture, my appliances, my car, my shingles or my walls. Losing those things hurt, but they were things that money and time and work, can and will one day replace.

But there are things that no amount of money or time can replace.

There were two big boxes in my house that got over looked during the flooding. Lots of things did really, since we never expected the water and since it came during the worst fury of Katrina, surviving seemed more important than saving things. These two boxes were in another room, in the back at the bottom of a closet, dusty and forgotten. I had actually looked for some of the things in them for a long time, and couldn’t find them. Couldn’t remember to save the world what I had done with them.

As soon as I began to dig through those boxes, I remembered.

I was putting some new photo albums and scrapbooks together and I had located a lot of family photos and keepsakes that I wanted to include. I just didn’t have the time to do it, so I put them all away in those two boxes for safe keeping, for a later date, for a time when I had more time.

The story of my life.

If I had only known then what I know now. If I had only put them on a top shelf, or in the attic, or found them before when I was searching for those old family photos to go on my family site, if I had thought about them and moved them, or if I had… Well, if only and if had were magic, I guess they would help. But they are only words and what’s done is done.

I didn’t find those boxes until after we came back home, after Katrina was long gone. Nothing I had gone through or lost brought me to my knees, but the things in those boxes, as I looked through them and slowly realized what all was in them, and that nothing was left of it, that did bring me to my knees. I would have traded my whole house and everything else in it for what was in those two boxes, but hurricanes don’t make trades or deals and what is gone is gone.

Even now I can hardly bear to list the items that were in those boxes. I guess I’m doing it as a confession because I feel like somehow I failed the family members who have gone, the family members who are here, and even those who are yet to come.

In those cheap cardboard boxes were a number of years’ worth of pictures of my children and family, as well as other rare and precious, irreplaceable possessions. My kids’ baby books were in there, old black and white photos that no one else had of family members who died years before I was born, there were letters in there that my mother, a child bride, wrote to my father during World War II, letters he wrote back, the wedding vows my husband and I exchanged twenty-two years ago when we were young crazy teens who everyone said would never make it, in those boxes were clippings from my babies’ hair and the little hospital shirts they had on the day I removed them to dress them to come home, the signed guest books from my mother and father’s funerals, school pictures, keepsakes, odds and ends and many other things that make up the collection of a lifetime of special moments.

All of those things were nestled safely together, or so I thought, sitting and simply waiting for me to find the time to scan them into my computer, bind them into a scrap book, stick them into a photo album, or hand them down to my children.

All of those so dear scraps of paper and ink that was so easily destroyed by the rush of flood waters that filled my home on that awful morning, can never be brought back. They were in my safekeeping and I failed. And maybe that’s the hardest pain to take of all.


Mary Gray said...

Give yourself time to grieve over this as you have surely lost pieces of your life. However, don't be too hard on yourself. You had a great deal to contend with in a very short time. You got your family (including the 4-legged members) through the storm. More would have been nice, but that was the essential part.

Angie Poole said...


I am so very sorry.



Charlotte Dillon said...

Thanks, Mary and Angie!

Gabrielle said...

Oh, Charlotte, honey, you didn't fail. Sometimes nature is just too strong. I know it must be so hard to lose those memories, but don't beat yourself up.