Part 3: Beauty in the Storm
We drove two hours through a raging storm to Annalisa’s funeral. The rain was thick and heavy, beating violently on the windows of our car, covering us in darkness.
Caleb had just finished his final exam in his third year of medical school. This was a huge accomplishment, but neither of us felt like celebrating. We had to steel ourselves for what was to come.
I watched the lightning flash all around us, feeling more nervous by the second in the howl of the rain and darkness.
“Is that a tornado funnel?” I eyed the thickening mass suspiciously, noting the way the ends tapered.
“No, sweetie, I think that’s just rain,” Caleb said, keeping his eyes on the road. He turned on some music to calm me, and I retreated into my thoughts.
I contemplated the duality of fear: its pointlessness in the wake of imminent death and its necessity when facing the power of the Almighty. In reality, we are all walking dead men. Should we fear our lives during the thunderous cacophony set in motion by our Lord’s wondrous earth, or in the stillness of our hearts, where our sin lies most foul?
Our only hope is to believe in something greater, in someone who has the power to conquer death and rescue us, like a fairy tale, from these shells of bodies gifted to us that we yearn to never leave.
You were made for so much more than fear.
That is what I remember in my heart, and I realize my anxiety is pointless. My 15 year old cousin is taken while whispering praise in her heart to the same God who spares me while I whimper in mine.
Annalisa’s devotion inspires me and convicts me.
Even now, I cannot claim to have the same kind of intimacy with God that Anni clearly had with her Savior. I have always struggled with what it means to truly love God. I am filled with awe and gratefulness, but love — how do you truly love a being you cannot see or embrace or even fully comprehend?
I recalled the previous night’s conversation with my friend Alisha. As usual, we had talked for hours in the cool evening, long after the coffee shop had closed.
“She went out to pray, which she did every night, and when she was finished she just…died,” I told her, wiping away tears.
“Nicole, that’s like a Lifetime Movie,” Alisha said, clearly touched.
Alisha was right; the circumstances of Anni’s death do have a certain sentimental vibe to it, but the tragedy of a life snuffed out far too early distracts me from the beauty.
How can we find beauty in this, the storm?
Lightning flashed before me again, and without the fear writhing in my heart I found myself overcome with fascination. I began to attempt to capture photos, one after another. Finally, with some perseverance and blind luck, I managed to capture a brilliant flash.
It was beautiful and terrifying and mine.
May this picture forever remind me of the beauty and tragedy in this world, intertwined and fleeting. May it forever remind me of Anni.
Caleb and I moved onward past the storm, conquering the darkness with light and love and faith.
Oh death, where is thy sting?
Oh grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
This is Part 3 of a continuing series, Remembering Annalisa. Read Part 1: Bearer of Bad News and Part 2: Her Heart was Too Big. Annalisa Laudadio was my husband’s cousin. She was 15 years old when she died suddenly on April 20, 2016. This short story collection is my way of working through the shock and grief of losing a loved one.