Today is the one year anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan – and my family. I really don’t have words to speak about what I think and what I feel and if I did attempt to say anything it would be, you guessed it, ineloquent. Lauren, my sister-in-law, wrote the most touching reflections on events that have touched her life this past year, to include the tsunami that took her grandmother. I am so thankful for a sister-in-law who keeps everything in perspective. Thank you, Lauren.
Reflections on Ethiopia (and Kesennuma): Forgetting
As we approach the anniversary of the 03/11/11 disaster in Japan, I’ve been thinking about “forgetting.”
It’s almost been one year since my dad’s hometown of Kesennuma was swept away by a tsunami, seven months since Paul and I went with our church to help Samaritan’s Purse clean up the aftermath, and only 5 months since I spent a month in Ethiopia with Jen.
And yet hours, days, and even months can pass without stopping to reflect on these events.
But how is this possible? Could I forget my father breaking down the phone as he told me that Grandma Komatsu was killed? Have I forgotten the quiet tears that slipped down my husband’s face as he showed me an image of a man who had just discovered that his wife and two children were dead? I don’t know if Matt cried; I’ve only seen it once. But I know behind the scary stache/tough guy hard exterior, there is some of mom’s “oh honneeey” sensitivity and empathy. And I don’t care how unemotional you think you are, the tears of a father, brother, or husband will break a girl’s heart in an instant.
What about the everyday, ongoing tragedies of life in a place like Ethiopia? Will I forget the little girl drinking water that made toilet water seem a hundred times cleaner? The babies lying in cribs that were tightly packed together in a dingy smelly orphanage, where the overwhelmed staff couldn’t possibly have the time to pick each one up for the sole purpose of loving and comforting them? Or what about the man in Arba Minch whose untreated malaria drove him insane and caused him to murder his young daughter in the middle of the night?
Of course I won’t forget. These memories are burned on my heart. In fact, just writing these words makes my face all twisty, and I want to pull my shirt over my head like my mom to hide the “ugly” cry.
So not forget, but somehow these things get jostled to the back of the line in my mind. These heavy memories are pushed around by the light, vapid, and constantly changing to-do lists in my brain and on my whiteboard, the imagining and pinning of my fairy tale life on Pinterest, and the obsessing over the I-want-to-make-but-will-probably-NEVER-make-so-just-get-over-it-already curtains!
So what’s a girl supposed to do? I could live on two ends of the spectrum: a distracted, disconnected, in denial life or a pity-party, preachy, stuck in the past life. No thank you to both. What I really need is a recipe for balance: cut back on the Pinterest, and replace with twice the amount of Thanksgiving and Prayer.
For every time I pour myself a glass of water, I want to Thank God for the privilege of having it and Pray for Tom and Teresa’s clean water mission in Ethiopia. Every time I’m on Facebook and see a post by one of my Japanese cousins, I want to Thank God for how many family members he did save from the disaster, and Pray for my loved ones who haven’t accepted the Savior. Every time I run with Motto, I want to Thank God for my working legs, and Pray for my Ethiopian friends Yigermal and his mother whose legs have been crippled by polio. Every time I “mud-out” my house (i.e. attempt to rid my apartment of dog hair), I want to Thank God for Samaritan’s Purse and the work they continue on His behalf, and Pray for Onadera-san in Kesennuma whose home we helped restore but we could not give her back the husband and son she lost.
As believers, we cannot harden our hearts to the tragedies of this world. So go ahead and Remember, Thank, and Pray. Let yourself have a good cry, and Thank God that what breaks His heart, breaks your heart as well.