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Shock is a Merciful Condition


“Shock is a merciful condition. It allows you to get through disaster with a necessary distance between you and your feelings.” ~ Lisa Kleypas ~

Six years ago, Tall & Handsome and I were working out of state. We were in Georgia, in an area being ravaged by drought. We were oblivious to what was happening back home. I should have known better given the month and season it was.

It was April. It was Spring.

That conjures up many things in the mind of an Alabamian, but tornado weather is right up there around number one, two or three.

Unfortunately, I was lulled into forgetfulness by the locale I was in at the time – hot, dry, beachy, and sandy – you get the picture.

I received a gigantic dose of reality the evening of April 27th when we walked into our condo. We had left the TV on for “company” for our Schnauzer while we were gone. He enjoys news as much as we do, so it was on one of the 24 hour news channels.

I had dragged my weary body in, was preparing to change clothes and start supper.

That’s when it happened. I looked up at the TV and saw in living color the biggest, nastiest most monstrous tornado I’d ever seen. It was on national news and it was barreling down McFarland Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

I was in shock.

I knew there was going to be massive destruction – but, I really had no idea how much. How could I gauge that much hurt from several hundred miles away?

I started calling family and friends. My parents were safe and sound. They assured me my sister and her family were, too. A long time friend had weathered the storm as well. But, it took over a week to track down another friend. She lived near Cullman and it was hit twice that day. Her husband worked in Tuscaloosa – ground zero for a storm rivaling anything Hollywood could imagine and I still didn’t know how he fared.

Tuscaloosa was almost swept away. Blown to the four corners.

The next day at work, my boss said I didn’t sound like myself. I explained I had friends and loved ones in the path on the storms the day before. At that point, I still hadn’t been able to reach some of them.

I didn’t even know if our home was still standing.

I was in shock. Bone-crushing, heart-stopping, mind numbing shock.

Pictures from Alabama began to roll in on national news showing the  aftermath. I went to local news websites and saw even more gruesome updates. They were all the more shocking. I had the need to be like a homing pigeon and return home as soon as I could.

I needed Alabama and in some strange way it needed me – it needed all its citizens to pull through this disaster.

We were finally able to go home a few weeks later. I had been correct in my concern. Places looked like a war zone. Our house needed a new roof, but I was thankful that was the only damage we took.

Too many people had lost everything – including their life or the life of a loved one.

But, oh that shock. That walking around in a circle, what do I do next, how can this be happening shock. You never forget it.

I have lived through shocks like that before. The shock of losing a loved one. The shock of being told at 28 you have lung cancer – and again at 41. The shock of you infant being born and being place in NICU. The shock of your husband of 27 years abandoning you for someone else.

Each time we have a life altering experience we usually get a gut punch of shock. We stumble around in a netherworld of unawareness.

Over time we begin to normalize. Our heads clear, plans formulate, paths forward seen and finally we begin to see a brighter day – or, at least a day without numbness.

Then, one thing becomes perfectly clear. The shock that gut punched us? It acted as a shock absorber. Taking in all of that horribleness, sub-conscientiously, beginning the process of healing before we even know and understand. Just imagine having to deal with all those raw emotions at once. If it didn’t kill us, it would probably drive us insane.

On April 27, 2011 Alabama, my home state was hit by a generational shock. Sixty -two tornadoes raced across the state that day. Over 250 people died, thousands were injured and lost their homes and Tuscaloosa was tossed like match sticks.

But, we, the citizens of Alabama learned a huge lesson. We leaned, “Shock is a merciful condition. It allows you to get through disaster with a necessary distance between you and your feelings.”

We learned also neighbors help neighbors, we found strength in each other, time moved forward and we found ways to heal.

We also found shelter in and from the storm. For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat…” Isaiah 25:4

© Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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