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It’s Just Stuff! – Guest column by Dorcas Headings Beachy

November 26, 2018

The author’s house, in the weeks following the storm. Dorcas writes: “The vista that we see now is affecting us. Our feelings are not the greatest at this time. It is stripped and bare, brown and dying, nothing looks right. our whole area will be this way for a while.” Photo courtesy of the author’s father, Merle.

Another Way for week of November 23, 2018

It’s Just Stuff!

Guest column by Dorcas Headings Beachy

Editor’s Note: In the weeks immediately following Hurricane Michael in north Florida, Dorcas Beachy, a friend from Melodie Davis’s Florida days, wrote about surviving the storm and aftermath.

“I am 63 years young and throughout my years I have heard the material things of this world described as ‘just stuff.’ Naked I came into this world, and naked I will depart, goes the scripture.

“Our days before the storm were like this: Day 1—A strong storm is coming our way. Day 2—I get ready, as I always do, with food, water, batteries, books. Day 3—The path towards us hasn’t changed and I along with my parents, husband, and sister-in-law go thru Hurricane Michael. A category 5 storm (worst possible) at the coast and category 3 at our homes.

“I headed into Day 3 thinking it won’t be bad, it never has been. We live too far from the coast to be scared. Somewhere along 1 p.m. I saw the first tree fall. It missed our house, then the dominoes of falling trees began: endless wind and cracking of wood. We could smell the pine inside as it broke outside. I suddenly understood, my life as I enjoyed it was going to be changed. I removed myself to a quiet place and cried. BAM! went a tree as it tore through our attic roof. I cried some more and prayed it would stop. It didn’t stop until 4:30.

“Seeing the aftermath of Michael that afternoon is something I and others will never forget. The crisscrossing of huge trees on our driveway, three trees angling out of roofs, my parents seeing the damage to their place, my sister-in-law borrowing my husband’s bicycle to try to ride to her home and see if it was still there, finding part of our neighbor’s roof in our woods.

“Now it’s been a few days. We have tried to contain all the damaged areas. We have a building that’s two-thirds a shop for Milton and one-third a playroom for our grandchildren. It is filled with our kid’s stuff from their growing up years. Milton had to tell me the tree sticking through the roof damaged the whole building and I need to empty out the playroom before the next rain.

“I have tried to not even look at the outside, tried to sleep in the heat with ringing in my ears. I have forgotten to eat and haven’t bathed in five days. I decided it was easier to “GO” outside then dealing with “GOING” inside. I worry about my parents and the damage they sustained. I search for yet another towel to clean, mop, or dry wet things with. I bag up household trash, spoiled food, dirty laundry and put the bags in the back of the pick-up and watch as the pile gets bigger.

“Is it just stuff? NO! It is my life and while I can live without a lot and scale down if I have to, my stuff is important to me. I, we, will be okay. Family, friends and strangers help us all.

The backside of the author’s home, now decorating for Christmas even while they await a new roof. (Photo courtesy of the author’s father, Merle.)

“In week 4 post-storm, the combat-boot-camp-of-living has changed to electricity-is-good!-but-I-still-don’t-want-to-look-outside. Things are better. Our driveway was impassible, so that is what we addressed the first morning. My husband Milton, began cutting up massive amounts of tangled pines with a chainsaw while Dad and I were supposed to move the logs to the side. We started with an overwhelming feeling: we can’t do this alone, it will take we three a long time! Suddenly a John Deere mini-tractor came down the road. On it were Mattie and her husband; complete strangers to us. They stopped at our drive and said, “We hear you need some help.” They proceeded to push with their tractor’s front-end loader all the way back to Dad’s house, around 600 feet. We still don’t know how they knew to come our way.

“My sister-in-law, Pam, who rode out the storm with us, lives nearby in a trailer. She and we thought there was no way her home could have lasted the blast of Michael. She made her way there by bicycle and returned to tell us her trees were down and a terrible mess but her home was okay except for some roof damage. The stuff in our 10 by 20’ outbuilding playroom was not damaged and filled with toys for kids. I decided to go through all those memories and keep some, give some to our children, and donate the rest. I was in the grocery store and heard a lady talk of the local Kid’s Kingdom daycare. It had been damaged and they needed kid things. I asked where the place was and went the next day with a miniature wooden kitchen set, puzzles, kid-sized table and chairs and more. It turned out to be the former Oak Terrace Mennonite Church, the church I attended from cradle to 18 years old. What I thought I couldn’t give up is now being used daily by children in a place that holds lots of wonderful memories for me.”


I was touched by Dorcas’s story—especially the mention of the church where I too was deeply influenced the year and several summers I lived there. All those recovering from this disaster—along with hundreds of thousands around the world at various stages—have been helped by numerous outpourings of help from friends, family and strangers. Recovery takes years. We pray for all going through turmoil at this time of year.


Update: Many families are waiting for new roofs or repairs–reliable contractors have long lists, and church-related disaster relief organizations are not allowed to help those receiving insurance for their damage. So patience and faith keep folks going. Please join me in praying for patience and love for so many families!


Your own storm stories from recent times or longer ago? Send to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  


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  1. Very affecting post. I grieve for Dorcas and many in western Florida who sustained horrific damage. I believe our church sent help: water and man-power. On Florida’s east coast we have had our share of roof damage and downed trees, but not to the extent I’m reading about here. At least not yet! True, it is just stuff, but devastation like this turns the rhythms of one’s life upside down.

    When I read about the John Deere tractor tooling down the road toward Dorcas’ property, I thought of Fred Rogers’ famous words about things going horribly wrong: “Look for the helpers!”
    (The Christmas lights are a signal of hope and recovery, bless you!)

  2. Yes, the Christmas lights look hopeful and celebratory and I’m sure the family feels that way too. Dorcas was a dear to let me use her reflections–she’s like me in that writing stuff helps her process her feelings and experiences–and I know that’s true for you too. [She said it was the first time she’s ever been paid for a piece of writing, so that felt good!] Thanks for connecting here. 🙂

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