This morning I found a Post-it Note. Occasionally, I will find one here and there—taxi phone number, new Japanese word I am trying to memorize, a couple ingredients for the new recipe du jour. Months later, the taxi has been called, the vocabulary word has been either committed to memory or completely forgotten, and the recipe has been either saved as a keeper or discarded as a flop. So, the Post-it Note finds the trash and is forgotten. Today, though, the note hit me with a significance that warrants more than a quick trip to the trash can. Stuck to the back of a plastic bag in a drawer of odds and ends, the note brought me back to a moment earlier this year. When I was still in the droves of nursing challenges and exhaustion, when routine was a word I both longed for and despised, and when life seemed the most uncertain as it ever had. The note recorded words like “nuclear” and “chemical” and hastily scratched numbers of distances and times.
For us, and about 100 million others, March 11 is a day that will forever define 2011. Magnitude 9.0, one of the largest in history. Riding it out with a newborn in my arms, several miles away from her daddy and thousands of miles away from the familiar. The chaos that ensued—emails from back home, no cell phone service, trains shut down, air planes rerouted, more shaking. Streaming images of the lives uprooted and forever changed. Hearing words of shock, awe, and concern. The threat of uncertainty worse than the threat of nature. The whole earth groaning before its Maker.
In the days that followed, we would ride the roller coaster of news. Earthquake. Tsunami. Devastation. Radiation. Each new piece of news, a new piece of the puzzle of action or inaction. Scared, at times. Peaceful, at times. Praying, always. Certainly, those moments rallied community. Liminality; bringing people together as they experience a common, trying event. We met our neighbor for the first time, consulted with friends, and prayed fervently with our family. We made decisions based on the scattering of information that we had. And, only a few days into the aftermath, part of our family was a on a plane toward the familiar, and part remained behind to support the community.
Looking back, even only a few months later, it may seem that we overreacted. Our memories of the moments that week and of those following are already fading. Why did we leave? What invisible threat could have been so strong? Yet, we cannot let our lens of history fog the reality of the moments. The invisible threat was detected, right here, near our babies and unborn children. Nature’s cooperation was unpredictable. The power plant, unstable. The unknown, disarming. And, in that, our decisions, though difficult and strenuous, were founded and sound.
Eight months have past now, and life around us may appear to be back to normal. Yet, in its subtleties, there is a new normal. There is an edge of distrust in our governments and leaders. There are questions as we provide local food and water to our children. There are tremors which are slightly more disarming. Each shake reminds us that we are not in control.
And, control is ultimately what we are free to relinquish. As we made each decision and walked through the days and weeks as a family suddenly living apart, we could be certain that our God knows. That somehow in those moments we were growing. We were living life in the purpose he intended, even when it seemed too surreal to bear.
Today, I am grateful to be together, for the baby sleeping in her bed, for the husband dedicated to both family and work, for the adventure we are on together. And, today, I am thankful for the reminder and reflections of our unique year, brought on by the contents of a Post-it Note.