The Long Journey of Hope
On November 13, 2013, following a quiet morning at church, we drove home amidst tornado sirens, storm chasers, and texts from family to be safe. We had no idea we were trailing a tornado that had just demolished our first home.
We were about a half-mile from our front door when we realized everything was gone.
“This is not happening,” I screamed.
“There are going to be dead people everywhere,” Dusty said in return.
Within moments, we were running in opposite directions.
“Get her out of here!” he demanded, referring to my six-month-old baby in the back seat. He handed me the keys, and I began loading up other families’ children – their parents trusting me with their lives. Dusty ran to save neighbors, still climbing out of their basements.
After getting the children to safety, I attempted to walk back into the neighborhood. For more than two miles, I climbed over debris, my hands and knees bloody from turned trees and poking nails. I came upon the space where our house once stood, and I sat where my daughter’s nursery once stood. Her crib was left standing, gleaming white and pristine among the devastation.
People describe war scenes as disorienting, like one of those thin spaces between heaven and earth where you aren’t sure which reality is yours, where time and space seem to whirl. This was true for me. I remember hearing silence and screams. Smelling gas. Seeing families hold one another in tears. Feeling my heart pound in my chest, hot tears stream down my cheeks and cold wind beat against my face. I remember trying to think of a plan, but realizing there was none to be had.
If there’s such a thing as hope, I felt it in that moment. I believed with all my heart that this would pass. That somehow, this was bigger than me, and I just needed to keep walking through it.
But it wasn’t easy. In the days to come, I felt loss. At times, I found myself in tears that wouldn’t stop. The burden was heavy. We needed to clear our home from our lot. We needed to decide where to live. We needed to replace everything we owned.
I also felt humbled. I’ll never forget opening a check for $500 from someone I didn’t even know. To this day, I get a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach from the giving that we can never repay.
When I hear stories of hope, I think of the journey as a long one, possibly one that doesn’t end. After all, hope is a belief or an anticipation of something better. Of the light that is to come.
Likewise, for us, hope happened throughout our story. Like when we moved into my grandmother’s basement and my daughter took her first steps. Or when we purchased our next home to give ourselves confidence that we could move ahead. Or when we kept living life through two miscarriages and kept trying anyway – because we believed we could survive just about anything.
Hope, for us, was not weathering the storm and getting to the other side, but it was created as we built memories and lessons that would last us a lifetime. Hope will remain as we teach our children about the good people that saved us, the appreciation that grew in our hearts, and the fight for family that grew ever stronger when we realized how much God loved us through it all.
Misty Dykema is wife to Dusty and mom to two precious girls, Myah (4) and Drew (4 months!) She works for Simantel, a local marketing firm where she helps clients build engagement strategies to solve business challenges. Her hobbies include jogging, traveling, talking leadership, hanging with family and helping out at Imago.