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Dry Land

Even after the surge receded, the land didn't seem safe from the ocean anymore.

When the waters did withdraw, they revealed a ransacked coastline of tangled cars and houses, utility poles and wires, street signs, billboards, and old, old oak trees stood like naked giants, holding wind-blown banners up to the sky.

Her kids had persuaded her to evacuate. Her son had stayed behind and helplessly watched as the flood entered and filled the house, twisting and squeezing it.

For two years, everything got sucked down into that cursed muddy sludge. Most everybody felt it, the despair, and in the early days, antidepressants were sold by the pound at the supercenter.

The house wasn't covered, the insurance company said - not for this kind of damage. "We're truly sorry for your loss," they said. Remarkably, the son managed to restore it, nearly 18 months later, put it on the market, and get enough to pay off the bank. Afterwards, he went away and was never heard from.

She stayed with her oldest daughter for a while, but soon after her cancer was diagnosed, she was back and forth between the hospital and the long term care center before she ended up here in the hospice.

Today, when I brought her meds, her blueberry eyes were wide open and her lips were moving to the purdy-purdy-purdy of a cardinal singing in the park across the street. I've been doing this job for 30 years, but I cried... inside.

Story by:

Peter McMillan

12 September 2013