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The Mommy Chronicles Turning Disaster into Love - An Open Letter to My Son

26 Apr 2016

Editor’s Note: As we enjoy all of the wonderful things going on around town this week, it is most certainly not lost on any of us that we will mark a somber five year anniversary on Wednesday – of the April 27, 2011, tornado that devastated so much of our beloved city and took so many lives. Several DCL columnists wrote about their own very personal experiences that day, including Marlena Rice. Thank you for sharing, Marlena!

I remember during the early morning hours of April 27, 2011, my husband and I found ourselves sitting in the closet of our master bedroom, our Great Dane, Midnight, laying between us. We were frightened; in all of the years I had lived in Tuscaloosa, a tornado threat had never seemed so real. Waking up later that morning after a short, anxious sleep to what sounded like a train running constantly just outside the windows of our bedroom, and seeing the damage caused in our neighborhood, we understood just how close the damage came to home, hours before a second, larger, EF-4 struck Tuscaloosa later that afternoon.

Five years later, I still pay attention to Midnight, who is all of 210 pounds, whenever a storm comes. He immediately stoops down to the floor and wants to be close to us. I think the fear of that night is something he still hasn’t forgotten, either. I’ve come to wonder recently, if my two year old had been in the closet with us that night, how would I have calmed him? How would I have been able to explain to him why we were in the closet, or, the next day, why trees next door had fallen down, and why we couldn’t drive to school? How would I comfort him again when he heard the words “tornado” and saw the sky getting dark?

There is no correct answer. It is a tough question, and one I’m sure many parents here have considered all too often. I can only advise you to be honest in what you believe in a loving way. How would you write your “letter”?

Dear Beaux William,

When you were in the closet with Daddy, Mommy and Midnight, God was watching over us to keep us safe during the tornado. Why did some of our friends get hurt? Well honey, God was watching them too, but the storm was a bad storm, and some of our friends and family were hurt badly. Remember what happens when people sometimes get sick, or they hurt their bodies badly? Yes, that is when they get to go to heaven and live with Jesus. So, we do not need to be sad because their hearts are happy again and their bodies have been healed. Most importantly, they have a home forever that they will never have to leave. So let’s not be sad, because they would not want us to be!

Why did this happen? Son, sometimes things occur that we cannot explain. Sometimes these things make us happy, and sometimes they hurt our feelings and make us sad. But, despite the bad feelings that we have when we are upset and scared, it is very important to remember to be nice to others, and treat them as you would like them to treat you if you were in their situation. This is why we helped our neighbors rebuild their homes, and why we donated clothes for people to wear. If we needed them, we would have been very grateful for the help too.  

It is important for you to always remember that we need to make our lives about other people, and not about ourselves. Showing someone love when they are sad and scared is the best time for them to comprehend that even though they are hurting, there are people who love them. Ultimately, we want them to feel complete and happy again, just like we feel every day.

Love, Mommy

Marlena Rice is a local mom and author. Her new book, “Pacifiers, Flatbeds and Barn Wood Thingamajigs, a 'Come to Jesus Guide' for the New, Southern Mom,” will be available on Amazon.com soon. Follow Marlena on Instagram at marlena_rice.

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Lake Tuscaloosa Living (LTL) is the premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.


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