Hurricane Florence just blew through the Carolinas and it was strangely reminiscent of another hurricane that visited us in 1989 named Hugo. We never thought Hugo would come to Charlotte, NC and although we followed it with the weather reports each night and were concerned for the people in Charleston, SC, we in Charlotte took the hurricane very nonchalantly.
When the weather reports began to say that Hugo would reach as far inland as Charlotte, we all thought that it would dump a lot of rain on us along with some 30 mph winds and would move along and die out somewhere west of us. We had a beach weekend planned with friends. Hugo was scheduled to arrive in Charlotte Thursday night or early Friday morning. We thought that after it blew through, we would get in our car and drive to our long awaited time at the beach.
How wrong we were. Hugo came through Charlotte with a force we had never seen, blowing down trees, blowing roofs off houses, cutting off power from thousands of homes. Getting in out of town was nearly impossible because of fallen power lines and hundreds of trees lying across the roads. Businesses were closed, gas pumps were inoperable, and grocery store shelves were empty. We were totally unprepared for this.
The first few days were a frantic scramble to find flashlights that worked, water, and food that would not spoil and trying to stay cool in the September heat without air conditioning. While other homes regained their power, our house and two others on our street were to remain in the dark without water for an additional week and a half. Our power problem (a blown fuse in the transformer) was a local problem and first priority was being given to much larger problems.
October arrived and we were hoping that our power would be restored before our daughter's birthday on Monday, October 2. But it was not to be. My wife's parents arrived (by then the roads were cleared). I came home from my job (businesses had reopened). And darkness arrived soon after.
Throughout our time without power we dreaded the night. Night without electric lights seemed so very dark. There was no T.V. Reading or playing games was difficult. Our problems seemed worse at night.
But the night of October 2 was different. It was almost magical. The dining room was filled with candlelight including those seven candles on the birthday cake. And as we wore our party hats and sang happy birthday, the room was filled with joy and love and we had forgotten that we were sitting in darkness, and we were somehow lifted up beyond our situation.
There is a hymn whose refrain is "Love lifted me. When nothing else could help, love lifted me."
When nothing else could help us, love lifted us that night, out of the darkness and into a joy and peace that surpassed all understanding.