Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sweet Home Surprise

On November 17, 2013, my sister and her family lost their home - as well as both of their cars and almost all of their belongings - when a line of storms and tornadoes devastated their small town of Washington, Illinois. (If you missed them the first time around and are interested in the posts I wrote about the disaster and recovery, you can find all of the links here.) That day was horrific and humbling, marking the end of one life and the beginning of another.

That new life, though physically challenging, emotionally devastating, and mentally exhausting, proved survivable because countless friends, neighbors, and even strangers stepped in to lift up Sara, Jeff, Lily, and Carter when they needed it most. Because of generous support from so many people across the country, they were able to rebuild their home and their lives.

A few weeks back, Sara and Jeff decided to throw a "thank you" open house and invite everyone (at least those who lived within driving distance) who had in any way helped them along the way. We received an invitation, but traveling more than 1,000 miles for a Saturday afternoon open house costs a little more than we can afford to spend on a weekend activity.

Then two weeks before the party, my parents called to tell me they thought I should attend the party. They graciously bought plane tickets for me and Hallie, and thus began our second "show up in Illinois unannounced" surprise. (Grandma insisted Hallie come with me because Lily's dance recital happened to fall on the same weekend as the party. Lily came to watch Hallie dance a few weeks ago, so Grandma thought it only fair that Hallie come watch Lily dance as well.)

After Will came down with pneumonia and he and I spent last Thursday night in the emergency room, I considered staying home. In the end, however, I knew Tom could take care of Will so that I could be there for Sara and her family.

Our flights went smoothly (with the exception of our lost luggage), we shocked Sara, and we enjoyed both Lily's dance recital and the party. I loved spending time with my family and watching Hallie play with her cousins, and appreciated the opportunity to extend my own personal thanks to all those who at one time or another offered a helping hand.

A few highlights from our weekend:
Matching nightgowns and matching bedhead.
Waiting for Lily's recital to begin.
From distances greater than 10 feet and/or from behind, at least
five party guests mistook me for Sara. Sara and I just don't see it.
Wrapping up the recital portion of the weekend...
…and kicking off the party portion of the weekend.
(In matching dresses, or course.)
My mom and camping aunt. 
These three little rug rats have my heart.
Today's post is likely (and hopefully) the last I'll write about tornadoes and rebuilding blown-away houses, so let me sign off with a final thank you for your support throughout this 18-month journey. Grateful doesn't even begin to express how I feel.

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