In 2010, April brought the birth of Wyatt. In 2011, it delivered death and destruction.
Now April feels like an annual opportunity to consider and perhaps embrace the coexistence of life and loss, pain and healing.
Within the past week, the long-awaited construction of Cordova’s new grocery store began, and one of the men who helped lead the city through the aftermath of the tornadoes was laid to rest.
While some celebrate rebuilding, others grieve for a friend.
The questions that have been asked most often in my hometown in the past three years have been things like “When are those buildings going to get torn down?” and “Why don’t we have a grocery store yet?”
Maybe it is time for a new line of questioning — “What are you still carrying around with you from that day?”
I recently read a series of articles about how members of Goshen United Methodist Church in Piedmont marked the 20th anniversary of the Palm Sunday tornado.
The congregation lost 20 people on March 27, 1994, when a tornado tore through the sanctuary while an Easter pageant was in progress.
One of the dead was the 4-year-old daughter of the Rev. Kelly and Dale Clem. Another daughter was spared.
Life and death were separated by a few rows of pews.
The Clems, like the other surviving parishioners, have moved on from the tragedy in their past.
Clem is now the pastor of another United Methodist Church in Huntsville. She gave birth to a third daughter several years after the storm.
Today the site where Goshen UMC once stood is a memorial garden. A plaque bears the names of all 146 people who were in the sanctuary that day.
One news article that I came across noted that there are no asterisks to distinguish those who made it out of the church alive from those who did not.
That seems appropriate to me.
No one escapes unscathed from a storm of that ferocity.
It is just more difficult to identify the hurting now that physical scars have started to fade and possessions have been replaced.
While rebuilding a community is certainly not an easy task, it can be done given enough money and time. Restoring peace of mind, however, is a more elusive undertaking.
There was a time that we were willing to lend a sympathetic ear to those who wanted to talk through their experiences, but that window of opportunity now seems closed.
Those tornadoes happened three years ago. Surely that is enough time for people to deal with their issues, we think.
Things are back to normal, or what might be better described as a new normal. Signs of progress are everywhere. The world is moving right along as we were told in our darkest days that it would.
But tell that to the one who stays up all night because storms are passing through.
Tell that to the one who is facing another birthday or holiday without a familiar face or the home that holds so many memories.
Tell that to the one who is okay on most days but then something happens that opens the floodgates of swirling emotions and suddenly it is April 27 again.
My concern as we near this third anniversary is that we have become too busy to acknowledge the ache in a neighbor’s heart.
Maybe there are people bearing this heavy burden alone, thinking that they are forgotten. Maybe instead of “Suck it up,” they are longing to hear, “I see you. Let’s talk.”
This year, there won’t be any celebrity bike rides or community-wide ceremonies to mark the anniversary. For the first time, it will pass quietly, allowing each of us to remember it in whatever way we deem appropriate.
If there are those who need someone to stand with them in that hour, I hope they ask, and I hope we respond without hesitation.
Then after we have a shared moment of grief, we can dry our tears and walk a little more confidently into the future.
Another year is behind us, and a new one is before us.
We pray. We press on.