Wednesday, May 5, 2010

the scoop, part seven

Thanks for hanging with me you guys. I didn't realize when I started this that it would take this many installments to unpack everything. My goal is to finish by the time we reach part ten, but we'll have to see.

*Before I launch into this part of my story, there's something I should mention. For those of you who don't know about it, I've been working with an organization called Providence Ministries for the last 13 years. We set up a children's home called Providence House in southern Haiti to care for a few girls who were in desperate situations, and we also provide educational opportunities and work with established ministries in the area.*

Now, let's continue.

At some point in all of this, we made the decision to move Dave's mom to Alaska to be with his brother's family. His brother has extended family who all live near him and can help with his mom's care, and they've dealt with a family member with dementia before so they know what to expect. In fact, this was their suggestion in the first place. I won't lie to you: I was very relieved at this development. We just weren't able to care for her any more, and we knew she wouldn't want to go into a sheltered living situation. So, in January we were very busy making preparations for her departure on the 16th. Dave and his sister were going to accompany her and stay for a few days to get her settled in.

But first came January 12th.

Around suppertime I got a phone call from my dad. "Did you hear about the earthquake in Haiti?" I had no idea how to respond. I was used to hearing about hurricanes and mudslides and riots and kidnapping, but earthquakes? I thought it must be a mistake. "Where in Haiti, Dad?" I asked. He said he thought it was just outside of Port au Prince and it was a big one. I told him that I'd call him back, and as soon as I hung up I called my friend Marcia. She had just heard about it too, but she didn't know anything more than I did. We didn't say it at the time, but we were both very scared.

For the next several days we watched CNN non-stop and tried to get through to our friends. Providence House is located 120 miles from Port au Prince, a fairly safe distance, but we weren't just worried about the direct effects of the earthquake. Haiti is very centralized and extremely poor. Something like this hitting the capital city would have dramatic consequences for the whole country. So we waited and prayed. It was torture. We watched the video footage of decimated homes and trapped children, and we barely spoke a word. We finally got a brief phone call from one of the girls and learned that they were all OK and the house was still standing, but they were terrified. I'm not sure I've ever felt so helpless.

I've lost count of the number of times I've traveled to Haiti in the last thirteen years. I was standing just outside the palace a year ago in April, and now that majestic landmark is just a pile of concrete. I've shopped dozens of times at the Caribbean Market that was the scene of so much death (and a few dramatic rescues, thank God.) As the camera panned the streets, I searched for something I could recognize, but this was a wasteland that was not at all familiar to me. I grieved over and over again for my friends who would never be the same, and the unimaginable suffering of so many. This changed everything. We continued to get Lorraine packed, but our hearts were all over the place. Suddenly everything I had been preoccupied with over the last many months seemed utterly trivial.

The really weird part of all this is that my health started to improve almost immediately after the news of the earthquake hit. I suppose it could have had something to do with the relief of my mother-in-law moving away. As much as we love her it lifted an enormous burden when her care was transferred to others (although we're still sifting through the tangled knot of her finances and her belongings). Nevertheless, I think the earthquake somehow reset my body and my mind. I remembered that there are more important concerns than the ones I had been immersed in for so long. I remembered that I am incredibly fortunate. I remembered (and maybe even discovered to some degree) my values.

I had an opportunity to get on the Comfort hospital ship, but that ended up falling through. I was really disappointed about that, but it got me moving in a particular direction. My leave of absence was running out, and I knew I wasn't ready to go back. Even more important though, was the growing suspicion that i wasn't supposed to go back. Ever. That part of my life was over. Something new was emerging from the wreckage of my life.

So I quit my job.

*big gulping breath*


  1. WOW. I love how much you love Haiti, and how you let that day change your life.

    January 12, 2010 changed my life, too, because that's the day Mirren was born. I feel bad saying it here, but it was days before I knew there'd been an quake, and weeks before I heard much about it. But I immediately thought of you, Terri, when I did hear about it. Little did I know how it effected you. Wow.

  2. this is getting exciting! thanks for the cliff hangers at the end of every post :) keeps people coming back for more!

    momma... i don't think i realized how much the earthquake shook you. no pun intended. but it seems like you learned a lot from it and it may have brought some healing into your life. strange how terrible things can flick internal switches in our lives...

  3. sarah: i remember reading that mirren was born on january 12th, and it made me glad that something good was happening that day. you don't have to feel bad that you didn't know about the earthquake at the time. i'm extremely happy you were spared and able to be fully present for your daughter's birthday.

    li: hi!!!! glad to have you here again.

    danny: you're dad is getting mad at me about the cliff-hangers, which strikes me as hilarious because he knows the story. when he read this yesterday and got to the last couple of sentences his exact words were "i hate you". (i don't think he really hates me.)

    yeah, that earthquake completely undid me. and it still does.

  4. After hearing the news about Haiti, I thought of you immediately. I know the place this land and its people hold in your heart.

    Reading this and considering the backstory, I wonder if Lorraine moving out and the earthquake happening wasn't just some huge "reset" for you, like rebooting the computer because it's acting all wonky. Terri got a reboot too because her body and her mind and her heart were getting all out of whack. A cause of personal stress relieved, and a literally earth-shaking event that demanded exactly the opposite of myopia.

    And then you quit your job.


    What the ... ?!!?

    I'm waiting. Not to rush you or anything, but yeah ... I'm waiting. :o)

  5. Wow. It's kind of like you're keeping my journal with a twist of Terri and fully thought-out sentences. I'm so glad we do life together.

  6. So many times as the story in Haiti unfolded, I thought of you and Jen and the Providence team and all the faces I'd seen of your Haitian family. It gave me more of a connection to the events because I'd read so much about the people of Haiti through all of you. It's definitely motivated me to do more than I typically would to help.

    Glad you're back! I need to get back, too.

  7. Feeling helpless...what an epidemically common feeling. I love that in the face of your helplessness, you did what you loved, even if from a distance.

    And, while your heart and mind were immersed in loving those who were experiencing earthquake fall-out, fear and all manner of brokenness, God reached down and loved on you . . . and your broken body. When you weren't looking. Does it get any more beautiful than that?

  8. johnny: thanks for caring about providence and the work we do. i had kind of forgotten that haiti was what connected us in the first place. it does help immensely when you have a personal connection to events like this. and thanks for looking me up again. :)

    cheryl: sometimes i think feeling helpless bumps us up against our great need for something outside of ourselves. and yes, i'm pretty sure that God does his best work when we're not looking.

  9. Hi Terri. Thanks for sharing "the scoop" I was wondering where you'd gone too...I heard about the leave of absence when I was in MN at Christmas and then that you left some time after's good to hear how things have been for you and that you are coming out on the other side...I look forward to the next several parts...

  10. hi heather. i wouldn't exactly say we're on the other side yet, but i'm mostly breathing normal so that's cool. hope life is treating you well these days.

  11. breathing is always helpful :-) And a GREAT first step towards getting to the other side...