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I’m blessed to know Kelli as a real life friend in two very special circles: our writers’ group and our church community. I’m always ready to talk about cherishing family, but it’s interesting to have this particular conversation with Kelli this particular month as some stressful events have brought me to the most tender places.
It was a week of lost things: lost data, lost consciousness, lost wallet. When the computer guy called to tell me my hard drive was blank and that there was no sign of any of the family photos and videos I’d captured for the past six years, the ones I hadn’t finished backing up, I lost my breath and my voice for a bit. The picture of Elliot on the day he got his drum set. The video of Farah’s first walk with big brother down the side walk, her twisting her hips and holding up her hand like a little lady all the way. The album of all of us with the puppies at Hoover’s farm. The picture of Grandpa Wiley on the day we brought him his butterscotch pie. The month-by-month photos of Gracia with her vase of roses. The birthday parties, baby dedications and birth videos. The. birth. videos. I tried not to cry but the tears leaked through. The computer guy told me the story of a couple who lost their photos of a child who’d passed on. I wrung my insides out like a washcloth, everything squeezing so tight that my voice could do nothing but creak.
I had the crazy thought of putting away the camera, kind of like the way I never wanted to fly in a plane again after September 11. My husband hugged me solid and said we’d get it all back. Then I saw the ambulance lights out my back window. I ran to the corner of the yard that met my elderly neighbors’ property and braced myself for the sight of a stretcher with a sheet pulled up. I remembered lingering at the fence one time to hear the story of the 9-year-old son she’d lost and how there wasn’t a winter that went by that she didn’t think of taking his coat over to the cemetery. I had touched her face that day, all those years after the loss, to catch a falling tear. Now as an EMT surfaced from the house, I ignored all the privacy laws. He spoke low. She was going to be okay. Just a fall.
A few blocks over, my hard drive was stripped down and put on life support, scanning overnight. I knew it was ridiculous, but I slept like you do when you’re grieving, that thin sleep where the click of the air conditioning or the headlights of a car coming down the street will jolt you awake to remember things aren’t quite right in the world. I woke before the sun and busied myself frying up a big breakfast to try and burn off the adrenaline. As soon as the clock ticked 10 am, my kindhearted husband zoomed me over to get the news. Nothing. No files. No partitions. Maybe a dust free facility could find something, but no guarantees. The guy told me the story of the parents and their lost child again. I pressed my stomach to stop the burning darts. I was sad for them. I was sad for myself too, only I felt bad for feeling so sad since my loss was so small in comparison. I may not have had the images of my children, but I had the children themselves. I squeezed them, thankful…still wanting the photos to share with them in years to come, but thankful.
My closest friends (the priceless ones whose skill sets include handling an emotional wreck like me) cringed with me, prayed for me, and sent me links to possible clean rooms. The hard drive was spinning, not scraping or clicking. As long as I hadn’t put a big fat magnet to it or clicked to reformat, the data could still be there somewhere. A few days later, one sympathetic friend sent the contact info for a local Mac specialist who gave me the info for a local data recovery guy.
Only by that time, the hard drive wasn’t my biggest worry.
On a normal Tuesday morning, after a long string of events starting with an intense basketball injury months earlier, my husband blacked out and I found myself frantic, checking pulse and breathing, rushing for the phone, asking my little girl to pray aloud. After almost a decade of pouring on the poetry in married life, my vocabulary in that moment reduced itself to “I love you so much. Stay with me. Stay with me.” I picked up his full weight and carried him across the room to lay him flat on the floor to count breaths, following every command of the emergency operator. He woke just as the EMTs came through the door and I scurried to call the parents, smiling every time I looked down at his vibrant eyes.
That day, I took a picture of Farah with the stethoscope to her daddy’s chest at the hospital. And on the way home, I bought another vase of roses. Even if I wasn’t going to get those first four months of Gracia Rose pictures back, and even with an upset stomach and fire running through my veins, I was going to start again from here.
When we noticed the wallet was missing, likely stolen in the ER, it all seemed so easily replaceable. A few days later, after a doctor’s appointment confirming that none of the scary stuff on Google applied to us and that my husband was fine, I got the guts to take my hard drive in to the data recovery guy. He spoke with peace and intelligence, a welcome change from the first place. He took on my hard drive and my anxiety. He takes on the anxiety of all who show up on his doorstep.
I prayed over him and his house as I put the key in the ignition. My empathetic friends did the same. And as it ends up, I am the woman who turned her house upside down to find that one lost coin, the woman who called all of her friends to rejoice with her. God was more than merciful, leading me to the tech guy who could get past the faulty electrical port and the encryption issue to restore 600 GB of family memories, including the first four months of Gracia’s dozen roses. Needless to say, I now have a double back-up plan.
With all of the near-losses recently, I’m thankful for the found things, moments in bloom, and the courage to keep filling the vase, even with fragile gifts.