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Life can change in a blink of an eye

In the blink of an eye, something can happen. In the time it takes to breathe in and out, life can change forever. We say things like that, but most of the time we don’t grasp how true those statements are.

For a lot of people in Alabama, the reality of how quickly the world can turn upside down is not an abstract idea anymore No, they lived it in a few minutes on a stormy Sunday afternoon.

Like most people, I’ve watched and read stories about the tornadoes that hit our state this past weekend. I am not a person who is overly afraid of bad weather, but seeing pictures of that monster tornado headed toward a little town near Auburn is beyond scary.

I was watching the weather reports on television to see if we might be in the path of any storms when they started talking about a dangerous tornado on the ground. My first thoughts were about my sister who lives in that area and my granddaughter who is a student at Auburn. As the reports got worse, I grabbed my cell phone and started texting.

First, I heard from my sister. She and her family were fine, shaken up, but fine. The tornado passed just south of where they live, but came within about 20 miles of their house. She said they did a lot of praying, fearing they might be facing a tornado headed toward them.

Next, I heard from my daughter who told me my grandchild was safe at her apartment in Auburn. I breathed a big sigh of relief.

A small shift in the path and my relief might be tears instead. I thought a lot about that as the death toll grew. All those people suddenly gone. And, all those families and friends left to mourn their loss.

Then there were the ones with stories of survival. There was the story of a woman who happened to be at the grocery store with her children instead of in her home, which the tornado destroyed. She said she knows they would not be alive if they were home.

There was another woman who is alive because she was working at Wal-Mart when the tornado torn through her house. Unfortunately, her husband was home and didn’t survive.

Not a single one of those people woke up Sunday morning knowing how much change was about to come into their lives. No one imagined they were about to lose their home or that they were breathing their lasts breathes.

We are so involved in all the small stuff, the daily things we allow to stress us and distract us from joy. Sometimes it becomes easy to forget all the good things we have right in front of us.

Most of us have never and will never worry about being homeless. The majority of us won’t lose someone we love in an unexpected tragedy. How easy it is to lose sight of our blessings and put our focus on what‘s wrong instead of what‘s right in the world.

Someone trying to find a way to understand the loss and suffering a tragedy like these tornadoes brings, said, “There must be a reason.” The “why” is something a lot of folks are probably struggling with, especially those directly touched by these storms.

I don’t know the reason nor to do I have an answer to “why.” What I know is we always have an opportunity to learn from tragedy, allow it to show us something important about ourselves.

For me, the lesson in this tragedy is that life can change in the time it takes for me to breathe in and out. So, I want to make a practice of appreciating every breath, being grateful for every single moment of joy I experience.

There are people in Beauregard, Alabama, who know from firsthand experience how important it is to cherish every breath because their lives changed forever in the blink of an eye.

Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.