The Miracles of Ian

My husband and I returned from the airport late, two nights before Hurricane Ian hit Naples on September 28th. The weather forecasters said Ian was supposed to hit Tampa, three hours north of us, so we thought we would be fine. To be safe, I reached out to a cousin with a generator who lived farther inland to see if we could stay with her should we have to evacuate. My 89-year-old mother lived a few miles away and was on oxygen so we needed somewhere to go that wouldn’t lose electricity. 

My husband, Tom and I packed a few outfits, computers and important papers, thinking we would be able to return home in a day or so after the storm passed. We left books, photos, and my journals of 20 years on low shelves that would be covered with five feet of water a day later.

This is a story about a series of unexpected miracles and how the graces we received in the face of uncertainty and loss carried us seamlessly through the difficulties of a Category 4 hurricane. The fact that we could shelter with my cousin was Miracle #1 in our saga. My cousin has a large home not endangered by rising tides.  We had power for Mom’s oxygen and CPAP machines, but we lost our connection to the Internet and cable, so we never knew where the storm was, and we couldn’t communicate with our family. 

When the trees stopped moving and the rain stopped pounding, we knew that Ian had passed. The next morning, we left early to find an Internet connection and a place to stay while we figured out our next steps. We drove a few blocks away from my cousin’s house to a parking lot where we were able to reach family in California to find out what was going on around us. We learned that we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near our homes to see the extent of the damage, and there was no electricity or running water in most of Naples, so we weren’t likely to find hotel rooms either. 

So, we headed two hours east to Ft Lauderdale, while our daughter secured a hotel room for us there.  We got to our hotel, bought several days’ worth of groceries and had a nice dinner out to celebrate surviving the awfulness and to recharge for the work we knew was to come. 

We awoke the next morning to my cell phone ringing and my dear friend Ann Marie offering us the use of her recently purchased Naples home. We could have it until Thanksgiving if need be. That was Miracle #2: we had a beautiful and comfortable place to recover. We stayed at Ann Marie’s almost three weeks.

Miracle #3 was being inspired to leave Ft. Lauderdale that very same day. Back across Alligator Alley we went; we dropped off Mom, the dog, and all our stuff at Ann Marie’s house and Tom and I headed immediately to our place on Third Street. We came in the open front door and saw that our furniture and everything in the house had been lifted by the water and slung violently. There was a quarter inch of mud from corner to corner in every room. It was odd, items from one room were now in another, photographs were ripped from frames right next to a vase that was sitting upright. It was hard to process. 

We saw a crew of five burly men with hammers and crowbars removing our walls. Our landlord, Ken, needed to move quickly to get rid of the mold so the house would not have to be condemned. We worked furiously for the next two days to get whatever was salvageable before the walls came down. We had given Ken our rent check less than a week earlier. He asked if we knew what we were going to do. We said no and he said he happened to have another rental not far away. “I’m showing it today at 4:30,” he said. I asked “Can we see it at 4?” 

We saw it and we took it on the spot. It was slightly smaller than our Third Street house, two blocks farther from the beach, and a little bit cheaper. It has a small pool and a lanai that the living room opens to, and it backs up to a big yard facing a small lake. It was, and is, beyond our wildest dreams. Because we left Ft Lauderdale immediately, we were where we needed to be to score a house that was better than the one we had just been washed out of.  All this in a time of scarcity. Miracle #4 – our new great house to live in.

Disaster does trigger a scarcity energy. Many people were in the same shape we were. We all needed new houses, new beds, new furniture, food, the basics. So, with a house under our belt, we moved quickly to, “What will we do about furniture?” This would be Miracle #5: Same day furniture. As unbelievable as it sounds, under the expert guidance of my mother, we went to a single furniture store, bought everything we needed to furnish the house (except rugs and the lanai furniture we now needed because of our new pool).  And it was all delivered that very afternoon. 

Three weeks after losing everything except our artwork that was above the waterline and things we could wash like clothes and dishes; we were settled in our new place. One month after that we hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas for our extended family.

This miracle narrative helped me make sense of my Ian experience and made me feel uniquely blessed. I did feel, and still do feel, that God graced us with so much abundance during that time because he wanted to encourage us and astound us. Both then and now in my remembering. 

Our five Ian miracles reconfirmed to me God’s inexplicably abundant love. They were coming at us so quickly that it seemed like we were swept along in a full-on river of care in a larger sea of uncertainty and loss. We didn’t know what would happen next, everything was day to day, and we flowed with it. We didn’t think the difficult stuff would stop coming any time soon. And we didn’t think the miracles would tap out either. And they haven’t.