What happens when a hurricane - or other Acts of God - wreck your plans?
We've been going on about it for years. That elusive thing which would legitimize us in the hearts and minds of our neighbours, open up new opportunities for our children, and ensure we would never again have to cross the threshold of the Garda National Immigration Bureau.
Our road to Irish naturalisation has been a tricky one. Like anyone who anticipates a big change, plans for an unforeseen future, or embarks far from home, the path is often bumpier than it appears. Not impossible, but not necessarily easy. Disappointments, trials, and regrets blocked the way from time to time. But then joy would spring up, hope would soothe, and time would finally be on our side.
And then... an Act of God.
Hurricane Ophelia did a number on our island, didn't she? On Monday, she ravaged the south and west coasts, uprooted trees and blew off rooftops. Over 200,000 homes lost power, 80,000 have no water, and tragically, at least three people have died. Still, we were spared the devastation other small islands have endured during this tumultuous season.
It is a small thing in comparison, but Monday was to be a brilliant day for over 3,000 Irish immigrants: swearing-in day. Bright yellow letters came in the post, an invitation to pledge fidelity to the Irish Republic, and with it, thousands of dreams fulfilled.
And then... see above.
I received an invitation, too, but had my own storm to contend with. Long-made plans to be back "home" in the US with my mother when she had surgery meant another dream deferred, even for just a bit. It was bittersweet, but totally doable. I would be with her on this side of the ocean while my husband, friends, and new compatriots received their Irish citizenship. I'd hit the next ceremony. No harm, no foul.
But then this storm, too, became a hurricane. Complications and chest pains, a potential heart attack and a weekend of waiting. While they checked my mother's vitals and labs, Ophelia set course for Ireland.
From across the ocean, I watched Irish State agencies prep for this storm with efficient forethought and care. Children's safety was paramount as all schools were closed. And even though it meant a postponement of so many plans, we all battened the hatches. Without question, we knew Irish lives were more important than jobs, than studies, than any bright yellow paper or government seal. We've see the devastation and we knew the potential.
Last night I walked my mom to bed after she finally returned home. One week spent in two hospitals did a number on her, as well. My arm under her right elbow, a cane in her left hand, we creeped slower than either one of us would've liked. But we both knew: recovery won't be easy, but it's not impossible.
Storms will hit. Plans will change. We will be battered. Lives may even be lost. But who we are remains the same. Beyond any national identity, colour or language, we are souls formed by God.
And He'll kick up a storm a time or two, to set us on the right path and steer this ship Home.