March 20 … the first day of spring in 2018.
Many years, when the winter has not been particularly harsh or snowy, spring comes along and it doesn’t seem like I’ve had to survive much to get there.
This winter has been kind of tiresome though. Frigid temperatures kept us indoors during a family trip over New Year’s. Snow shut everything down north of I-80 one Friday and I’m fairly sure I was one of only 10 people who drove to work that day. But at this point, even if we still need to wait a couple of weeks for some beautiful weather, we know it’s coming.
Beyond just the date on the meteorological calendar, this week in particular is a week of reflection and hope for many.
It could be as simple as waiting for the Easter Bunny and a new stash of good chocolate. Yet for many faith practices, it is a time to stop and take stock of life. Some years, this is somewhat low-key. Other years, there has been a wake-up call.
Imagine sitting at a lovely open-air breakfast on the island of Maui when you receive an emergency bulletin on your cell phone at 8:07 a.m.: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
Given that most of us have a cellphone nearby at all times, nearly all 100 or so people at the restaurant where my longtime friend Lori Hoots, formerly of Batavia, and her husband were eating received this message simultaneously. She reported that, momentarily, time froze and they ALL locked eyes.
“You can learn a lot about human nature and yourself going through this,” she told me. She quickly reviewed her life. She’d cared for her parents and her puppy until they passed away. Her children are as reasonably set for life as your children can be at 28 and 33. She has traveled the United States and several other countries.
“Well, I’m sitting in a place many call paradise eating great food and looking at the ocean and palm trees,” she said. “If this is it, I will enjoy my last moments.”
Her husband John Hoots, a highly pedigreed scientist, began running through the logical reasons why it could not be real. There were some missing pieces in the overall scenario and he knew “it just wasn’t right.”
Not far away, another friend’s son, Reed Mahoney, in his first year as a surgical resident at the University of Hawaii, was working at the hospital. He too saw the message on his phone and immediately texted his parents.
“He told us about the message and said he was working at the hospital. He said he loved us. I responded that we loved him, too,” she said. “And then I immediately ran to turn on the TV. I went through every news channel and nothing was being reported.”
Sally Swiss, originally from Aurora but now living in Wheaton, called her son back to let him know that she thought it could be a false report because nothing at all, other than Twitter feeds of families reaching out to each other, was being relayed.
After 38 minutes, a second notification went out: 8:45 a.m. “There is no missile threat or danger to the state of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.”
As organizations and government entities scrambled to ensure this doesn’t happen again, those that received the message, along with their families, have a lot to think about.
Lori’s after-the-fact assessment was that throughout the day, she saw on the faces of many people that they were still haunted by the early-morning scare … in a place that is known for sunshine and smiles.
I am not certain how I would react if I suddenly saw a text that said my life could be over in the next few minutes. I feel fortunate that I’m not one of those that has had to process that fear, temporary though it was.
If I had been, I know this would have been one of the years that included a wake-up call! From the easy chair I’m sitting in, my friends’ experiences are a thought-provoking prompt to think about how to live life.
Another season of spring and a new chance to reflect on the world is upon us. There will be grass that has that new and delicate shade of green that is only temporary.
Tulips. Open windows.
Driving home from work in daylight.
Whether you are one who recognizes this as a week of deep significance … Easter, Passover, Orthodox Easter … or one who simply looks forward to the warmer weather, may the freshness of this emerging season bring peace and hope … and some Godiva chocolate for good measure.
Everyone can enjoy a couple of pieces of good chocolate!
“Slices of Life Along the Fox” is a column that runs every other week in the St. Charles Kane County Chronicle. Sandie Benhart has family roots in the Fox Valley dating to pre-Civil War days. She has lived in St. Charles and been active in TriCities life for many years. Feedback on this column can be sent to email@example.com.