Hurricane Matthew: Looking back on a blessing in disguise

By Liz Browning |

At four years old, my father passed away in a car accident, leaving my mom to raise me and my sister, who was just seven years old. We were able to overcome this tragic incident because we had unconditional love and support from our extended family on all sides.

We received the greatest support from my grandparents on my father’s side. We were blessed that they were a part of our lives considering the tragedy that occurred. Although they lived six hours away from us, we visited them frequently.

Growing up, we’d pack up our little white Ford Taurus and make the six-hour ride from Vero Beach all the way up to their big red-bricked house on felt like the tallest hill in town. Even after my grandfather died, we’d still visit my Granny in Madison, a small town just east of Tallahassee.

Once I started college, my schoolwork made it nearly impossible for me to go visit her. However, when Hurricane Matthew hit, school was cancelled–the perfect opportunity for me to see her. Little did I know, it would be one of the last times I’d see her.

I planned on riding the storm out at my sister’s house in Tallahassee, but along the way, I decided to visit Granny.

There I was, driving through “no man’s land” on Interstate 10, reminiscing my childhood vacations spent at Granny and Grandad’s–swimming in their pool, going for long rides in Grandad’s truck, watching FSU football games on their outdated TV and sometimes going to the games.

The moment we arrived at their house, I would dash out of the car, run up the cobblestone driveway, and up the steps to the front door. Before I even knocked, Granny would already be standing on the porch, wearing her apron, smiling in her red lipstick, holding a glass of sweet tea.

We’d go straight to the round wooden, wobbly, kitchen table, where a vase of yellow lilies, were beautifully arranged in the center. Then Granny would fix us lunch, usually a sandwich with boiled peanuts on the plate as well. She loved to cook, she’d be so excited that before we would even finish our lunch, she’d be asking us what we wanted to eat for dinner.

I continued my trip, with Taylor Swift singing in the background. The memories faded to the back of my mind, and I began to think about how much Granny had changed over the years.

In the years leading up to her passing, Granny began to decline. She did not even turn on the stove to cook anymore and was getting to the point where she hardly ate anything at all.

She may have been feeling down, but when we visited her, she’d be smiling and wearing her signature outfit: a crisp, ironed white linen shirt with black capris, and of course, her red lipstick.

Unlike my visits in the past, I was not going to her house, instead, I would be visiting her in the hospital because a few weeks before the storm, she had fallen and broken her hip.

After driving for three hours, I reached the Madison exit. I pulled into town and stopped at the Winn Dixie, the only store in town, to buy her some flowers – yellow lilies – and a get well card.

As I drove down the street to the hospital, I began to struggle with my emotions. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to see her in a state of pain. Before I went inside, I sat in the parking lot, folded my hands, and said a prayer.

I checked in at the reception counter and a nurse led me to where she was, doing arts and crafts in a room with other patients as a part of her therapy. There she sat in a wheelchair, wearing a hospital gown, but still with lipstick on.

The moment Granny saw me, her face lit up. She kept telling everybody that I was her granddaughter but, that she couldn’t remember my name. That didn’t matter to me though, I was just happy to see her smiling and excited to see me.

The nurse wheeled her back to her room and I followed behind, holding the flowers and the card. I set them on the table beside the bed.

“Are those for me?” she asked full of joy.

“Yes,” I replied, holding back a few tears.

“They’re beautiful!” she said.

I stayed for about an hour and told her everything going on in my life, including my recent break-up with my boyfriend. Even in her confused state, she gave me some relationship advice about knowing who your soulmate is. When I decided to leave, I gave her a hug and a kiss and said goodbye.

I left the room, walked down the noisy hallway, stepped into the elevator and the moment it closed, I began to cry. I didn’t know when, or if I would see her again. I got back to the car, pulled myself together, and continued onward to Tallahassee.

When Hurricane Matthew hit, everyone focused on the negative impacts it had. For me, it left a positive one on my life. It brought me and my Granny together for one of the last time before she passed away.

For me, a year later, I can see that Hurricane Matthew was a blessing in disguise.

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