Recently, I received an early morning unexpected wakeup call. Others heard it, too. Neighbors and folks who live miles away got the same loud awakening.
At precisely 3:36 a.m., an extremely close lightning strike nearly knocked me out of bed. I learned later that others said the same thing.
The storm was unforeseen, not in the forecast, and as a severe weather spotter for the National Weather Service, I keep a close eye on the weather. This storm took me by surprise.
I was sound asleep, and yet I somehow remember hearing the sizzle, a loud pop, an extremely bright flash, and then a bang and thunder that rattled buildings up and down the Shenandoah Valley. All that happened in a terrifying split second.
Of course, I jumped up right away, wide-awake as if it were noon. Fearful that the lightning had struck our home, I immediately did an extensive check of the interior and then the exterior of our place.
In my office across the hall, the strike had fried our Internet modem and the Wi-Fi router. My laptop seemed saved by the surge protector.
I roamed the house sniffing for smoke and fortunately found none. I went outside and noted that it had rained, but was not now.
Lightning flashed, and thunder rumbled in the far distance. I scanned the neighbors’ homes in front and back of us. Everything seemed fine, so I went back inside and rechecked the house before settling back into bed.
I later learned that the lightning had hit two houses away. The lightning damaged electrical equipment in several homes and knocked the Internet provider offline for several hours. One lightning strike had created all this damage by following an underground cable.
This close strike was the first we have experienced in Virginia. When we lived in Holmes County, Ohio, our house was struck at least six times in the nearly 38 years we lived near Berlin. We never had a fire, but usually had to replace a variety of electrical products over the years.
I have to confess that the surprise lighting bolt immediately unnerved me. A deep, personal sensation filled me like a close encounter of the heavenly kind. I said a silent prayer of gratitude and dozed back to sleep.
Life is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes the most straightforward experience or situation suddenly brings deep, passionate meaning. I thought of others who have found themselves under ominous and personal storm clouds. For them, unfortunately, mere replacement isn’t always an option.
We all are struck by lightning in some way. It could be a sudden illness, a severe car crash, the death of a loved one, a house fire, a lost wedding ring, a lost job, or a terminal diagnosis. The list is endless. How we choose to respond can determine the intensity of the shock.
That unexpected bolt awakened me not only from my sleep but from life’s slumber, too. I know I have faults, can do better, can be kinder, listen instead of talk, share instead of desire, pray instead of complaining.
Lightning strikes the earth 100 times per second. So the close lightning strike wasn’t that unusual. The extraordinary sense of making every moment count while I still can, however, literally hit close to home.
For me, the message was simple. Time is short. Time is fleeting. I need to be kind and generous, compassionate, and considerate unconditionally. Will you join me?
© Bruce Stambaugh 2019
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