My father lived to be ninety-four years old. During those last years, his short-term memory eroded. While he could still do math, remember names and directions, he often couldn’t think of what to say in ordinary conversation. When he did think of something, with no short-term memory, he repeated the question or statement many times.
Something like, “Did I tell you the story about getting that grandfather clock from the old post office in Cold Water, Mississippi?” -- times ten. Other times simple requests such as, “Have you seen my wallet?” came over and over. Sadly, the last few months he asked, “Is Helen really gone?” That would have been a nice one for him to forget, perhaps.
It must’ve been isolating not being able to pull information forward and interact with others. As I’m over fifty now, I already struggle to locate the appropriate word or response, at times. I can only imagine how bad I will be if I make it another forty years!
There are two repetitive vocalizations I really miss about my father, though. One was, when he asked how old he was and found out it was in the ninety-year range, he always said, “The good Lord’s been good to me, letting me live this long.” The other thing he repeated was singing hymns. Well, mostly one hymn in particular, “How Great Thou Art.”
In the car, on the way to the doctor’s office, he’d sort of randomly ask, “Do y’all want to sing ‘How Great Thou Art’ with me?” What can you say to that, but yes? It was so sweet. We sang the song at his request in the car, in his room, and he even sang the hymn to at least one of his doctors.
No one in the family who was around my father those last years will ever hear “How Great Thou Art” and not think of him. Of course, we sang it at Daddy’s funeral. The thing is when I’m old-er, and my mind starts to go, I hope I remember to sing hymns. Or even just one hymn. Like my father.
Do you have a favorite hymn?
There are a few monumental days that divide our lives. Some are happy—a marriage or the birth of a child. Others are horrifying—that knock on the door or that phone call with bad news—the death of a spouse, child, or parent. There are days when we remember exactly where we were when something horrific happened—September 11, the Challenger explosion, a president being shot.
August 29, 2005.
Hurricane Katrina was a horrifying day that divided the lives of most Mississippians. The destruction and loss was staggering.
Though my home is three hours inland, Katrina’s storm winds still howled and moaned for hours, uprooting trees in every yard in my neighborhood, many of them crashing on rooftops. We had no power or phone service for a week, which was nothing compared to what happened south of us. I had dear friends from the Coast, and for weeks on weeks, I had no idea whether they were safe, due to the damage to communications infrastructure. The storm hit in August and caused the Gulf to surge up to twenty-seven feet in places.
Six months later, I traveled with a rebuilding team to hang sheetrock. The surreal mutilation of the landscape I witnessed, even months afterward, is forever branded onto my mind. No street signs, no landmarks, food still being served by members of churches under tents, because there was nowhere else to get it. I’ve done my best to honor the people who lost so much in this disaster.
This book is dedicated to my friends and all the Mississippians who went through the devastation that was Hurricane Katrina.
A Coastal Hearts Novel
Janet W. Ferguson
Maggie Marovich couldn’t save her father or her home from Hurricane Katrina, but she’s dedicated her life to meteorology so she can warn others when the monster storms approach. Except…she works three hours inland and rarely risks returning to her childhood hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Both her single-parent sister and the ship pilot Maggie once loved refused to leave the Coast, despite Maggie’s requests. Now a hurricane’s headed toward Mississippi, and Maggie’s sister is seriously injured, leaving Maggie little choice but to head south—into the storm.
The water and tides flow through Josh Bergeron’s veins, and he can’t imagine giving up piloting—even for the love of his life, the infuriating Magnolia Marovich. He tried to move on without her, marrying and having a child. But after his wife abandons him and his little boy, his career choice is threatened by the weight of his parental responsibilities. Moving next door to Maggie’s sister and sharing their child care seems like the perfect set-up. Until Maggie blows back into town.
Being forced to lean on Josh for help washes up the wreckage in Maggie’s faith. Where was God during the destruction of Katrina? Why do some prayers seem to go unanswered? Between the hurricane looming in the Gulf and another gale raging in her heart, can Maggie overcome her past and find the trust to truly live?
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson