It’s midnight and I am sitting on the porch with a teeny bit of caramel pecan ice cream and a cup of tea watching the lightning storm.
Normally I love watching the magnificence of Mother Nature when she decides to hurl a good prairie storm my way.
Lightning flashing across the wide open Northern Canadian sky can be a very awe inspiring experience.
Not tonight. Tonight I am watching it warily, like a prison guard watching a crafty inmate who likes to suddenly escape, causing mayhem and havoc before being shackled and wrestled into submission once again.
My 10 year old daughter is sitting beside me, nervously watching too. Every time the sky is illuminated by a particularly bright flash and immediately followed by a huge clap of thunder, she flinches.
“Wow, I felt that one shake the ground and come up through my toes,” I say as I glance her way. Even though she is fighting hard against it, her face scrunches slightly and her big green eyes fill with tears. I slide closer to her so I can tuck the blanket more tightly around us and put my arm around her slim shoulders.
She’s worried about her best friend; her six year old Welsh-Arab pony named Bella.
I understand her worry; I am feeling it too.
We are three girls living on a 160 acre farm, 30 minutes from town and are currently in the middle of a couple of severe forest fires ripping through the northern part of our province. Now is not a good time for a massive lightening storm, especially a dry one. We desperately need some rain to sooth the fury of Mother Nature’s wrath but that isn’t going to happen tonight.
“One, two, three, four,” she counts quietly. “Four. It’s only four kilometers away.” I pull her a little closer and gently kiss the top of her head.
“It’s more like a guideline than a hard fact,” I tease, trying to lighten the mood.
“What would I do if we were given an emergency evacuation notice?” I think to myself.
I alone am responsible for two little girls, eight horses, a dog and two cats. 13 living souls are counting on me; 13 to one ratio.
As the weight of that responsibility starts to press down on me, I resolutely shake it off. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I have to be real and make some kind of a plan in case the worst happens.
I stare unseeingly at the night sky as I mentally walk through each room. What would I take? What is irreplaceable?
I shake my head, somewhat surprised at the mental list I have complied: one week’s worth of clothes for each of us, pictures and photo albums, laptop and two external hard drives, the two tea cups that belonged to my grandmother and the blanket she made me when I was a baby.
Everything else is just stuff.
If the house burned to the ground, I might be hard pressed to remember half of what we lost. For the most part, it’s all just worthless stuff that clutters up my life.
I wrap my finger around a soft, dark curl just above my daughter’s ear and I know without a doubt that the only thing that isn’t replaceable is this little girl curled up in my arms. The expression a house isn’t a home without family pops into my mind.
I feel the truth of those words course through my body as surely as I feel the vibrations of the thunder.
It all boils down to family; that’s what matters most. My life would be an empty shell without my family.
If your house was on fire and suddenly a big blue genie appeared and said, “You can save your house and everything in it or you can save your family. You can’t have both. You have to choose.” I can’t imagine that anyone would choose their material possessions over their family. That’s a pretty simple conclusion.
However, here is observation that maybe isn’t as plainly obvious as the last: if we would all choose our families over material things, then why aren’t we doing that every day?
The most important thing in any human’s existence is its relationships with other humans. So why do they often take a back seat to everything else in our lives? Why do we treat the people we love with less kindness, respect and consideration than we give our co-workers or casual acquaintances?
When your time on this earth comes to its inevitable end, who will be there to hold your hand and kiss your cheek as you close your eyes for the last time? That vacation house, sports car, Coach purse or ATV that you worked so hard to get certainly won’t care when you are gone.
Making a bucket list is rather trendy and cool right now. However, I doubt that many people have, “Making my family a priority,” as item number one on their list.
This week I challenge you to evaluate all the people in your life and decide who are the most valuable and important. Are you making them a priority? Do you treat them better than all of the other less important people in your life? Do you love and care for them the way they deserve?
If you answered, “No” to any of the above, then you have some work to do this week.
Your life will become so much richer and more meaningful if you do. That’s a promise.
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Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Thomas Bressen/Flickr