The Brisbane floods in January brought home to Emma Forsberg, in a very personal way, the healing power of love.
I feel sorry for anybody who is yet to experience a natural disaster and come out unscathed. No, really, I do. I am not trying to trivialise or minimise the pain and grief felt by so many who have lost loved ones in recent disasters; I am just trying to examine the flip side of the coin. Let me explain...
The recent floods in my hometown of Brisbane brought up for me a lot of fear of the unknown, fear for my loved ones and fears about the future.
The air seemed electrified with fear; it seemed to permeate all around me. I was also frustrated and annoyed that my cosy and ignorant existence was being pulled out from underneath me. My life was being interrupted on a grand scale. How dare the rain do that?
I found it was the uncertainty of the situation and not knowing what would be the outcome that scared me the most.
After waiting two days for the floodwaters to rise, my mother and I went to inspect any damage to the home where she lives alone in Fairfield, which is close to the Brisbane River.
I don't think either of us really believed it was happening, as flooding was completely out of the realm of our experience. Looking back, I realise it was also a way to protect ourselves from shock, by pretending everything was as it had always been. Seeing my mother's house under water was actually a relief, as we then knew the scenario with which we were dealing. We knew where we must start and we could no longer imagine anything worse.
It was, of course, heartbreaking. As we drove to my mother's house to inspect the damage for the first time, a few times she forgot where she was, like she was driving around in a foreign city, even though she'd driven that route a million times before. I guess she didn't want to see what awaited her. She didn't want to know, or reach her destination.
We got there in the end, to be greeted by water still submerging the bottom half of the house. The watermarks told us that the water had crept up almost to the top of the driveway, putting at least a metre of the top of the house under water as well.
It felt so eerie, standing there in the dark that night with our torches. The water felt so deep and so still; so calmly destructive, like the Goddess Kali herself. I'd expected the water to be clear for some reason, but it was full of mud, dirt and the pollution of a city.
Rubbish, children's toys and teddies, batteries, cockroach baits, sewerage, you name it, all floating in a big brown stew of water. Water that had made itself welcome in my mother's home; creeping under doors and through cracks like only water can. It still amazes me how much damage water is capable of creating.
My mother lost most of her material possessions, as did her boarder, but she was safe and alive and so were her loved ones. It really emphasised to us that all that mattered was that we were all safe. Material possessions can be replaced; lives cannot.
Throughout the flood crisis I struggled to find meaning amid the tragedy. I kept asking myself, why do we have to go through this? What is the lesson? Of course I couldn't figure it out at the time. Hindsight is always such a gift.
During the floods I asked my angels to protect my mother's house from the floodwaters; they didn't. I believe they'd already tried to protect my mother, although she may disagree. A couple of months before the flood my mother had experienced an overwhelming urge to sell her house, downsize and move to the country, where she'd be closer to me and her granddaughter. I hadn't seen her so excited for quite some time. She put the house on the market, but after a couple of failed attempts to sell I believe she lost the courage to make such a huge life change and didn't follow through on her intuition.
She then decided to renovate the house for her own enjoyment, which was a double whammy of disappointment when the floods came and destroyed just about everything.
It was ironic that after the floods she ended up having to live with her granddaughter and me for some time, in the same location to which she had been hoping to move.
I asked my angels to keep my loved ones and me safe during the floods; they did. I also asked my angels to help anybody who needed help during the floods, and I'm sure they did. My mother and I both had a sense that my grandfather on my mother's side, (now deceased) was present and supervising the clean up. His business was completely destroyed in the Brisbane floods of 1974.
The first couple of days after the floods were a little crowded. There were lots of people sightseeing in cars and also lots of genuine helpers arriving in vehicles, so that my mother's normally quiet street was chock-a-block with cars parked on the sides of the street and in people's driveways. You were lucky to get a park at all, let alone outside your own house.
But my mother told me later that every time she went out to the shops or Centrelink during that time, there was a car parking space for her right outside her house when she returned. If you were present you would understand that this was nothing short of a miracle. Thanks Grandpa Frank!
The response my mother and my family received from the community during this time was overwhelming. There were at least 20 complete strangers who came marching in at different times wielding brooms, mops and guerneys. I blessed them from the bottom of my heart because when it's your own home you are trying to deal with grief and emotional loss at the same time. I had to be there to support my mother on an emotional level, as well as help out with the physical clean up.
We were constantly brought delicious meals by kindhearted souls who had volunteered their time and energy to feed us. I remember a couple of families who came from the other side of town just to help us clean up. The mother of one of these families told me, "I wanted the children to help and to understand what has happened, I didn't want them to be sitting around doing nothing." This complete stranger also brought my mother a bunch of flowers, acknowledging that the loss was a personal one and so she could start making her house feel like a home again. Friends overseas lit candles and prayed for us every night.
It brings me to tears all over again just writing this. I spent the whole of the four days of the intensive clean up on the verge of tears. I had never felt so much love energy from so many strangers all at once.
Within seven days the house was again (mostly) habitable; I'd thought it would take us months. The flood had opened people's hearts in a way I'd never seen before. People who had held grudges against one another worked hand in hand to fix up the community, because when you're in a crisis situation, none of the other stuff is important. When so many people are affected by a natural disaster, the only thing you can think is, "There but for the grace of God go I."
Material possessions, our little dramas, the things people do that annoy us - none of it matters when we are loving and supporting one another as a community and working together with a common goal to make things "right" again.
The power of love is potent, and the love energy seemed to build the more we all worked together. I was truly high on all the love energy around me, which I believe was produced by everybody giving at the same time. Giving and receiving is such a buzz, and with the power of love we can do anything. Natural disasters force us to become more loving and community minded, because we need one another.
Perhaps we need these disasters to help us enter a new paradigm, a new awareness and a new way of thinking and connecting with our fellow human beings. We are being made aware that we are interconnected, and that another person's grief and loss is also our own. Just as in the movie Avatar where they all prayed together and focused their thoughts when they wanted to heal, I now fully believe in our power as human beings to heal the world. The key is that we have to work together hand in hand.
Individual prayers are powerful, but group prayers are dynamite.