A story of one of the best-worst things to happen to me.


10 May 06 by Karen Pulfer Focht: Aimee (last name),17, found the dreams she had of her senior year in high school shattered when she and her family fled New Orleans because of hurricane Katrina. She settled into (school name) where she will graduate Friday night. She plans to go to school at the University of Memphis so that she can stay near her father, (Name) and help care for her sick mother (name).

***The school I attended asked me to write something about my experience, and they published the entire article in the school newspaper and sent it to the Memphis newspaper. They came to our apartment and interviewed my family and took pictures. I’ll always cherish this photo and within the last few years, emailed the photographer to thank her.***

Everything works out for our good. I know I write that almost every week, but it’s one of the simplest yet important scriptures. It’s easily forgotten mid-trial. In the middle of the battle, you have to remember that God did not leave, and while things may not be going how you would like momentarily, they’re going to benefit you later. It sounds like an awful game. Life isn’t fair, and it can feel like you lose more than you win, so why do we have to continue the “it’ll get better” mantra? It doesn’t seem fair that we have to go through the pain and believe somehow it’s working for our benefit.

Because it always gets better. We can choose to dwell in the darkness and how terrible life can be, or we can choose to look at the One who chose You for His purpose and is holding your hand through it. Life has ups and downs. It’s the one guarantee in life: there will be pain. But, He makes beauty from our ashes, and you have to look at it as a season or a day and not the final story.

For some reason, I wanted to write about another subject this week but can’t find the words. This current story keeps coming to the front of my mind for some reason and is one that changed everything for me.

If you read this blog, you will know two things: my mom died, and I want a husband. That is comical to write and made me giggle at the thought, but those two things are what draws me to Jesus because one took years to unravel the grief, and the other was unraveling how to trust God in the waiting and figure out His plan for me.

I live in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s currently summer and HOT, FYI. In 2005 I was a senior in high school. For some reason, everyone glorifies the high school experience and says it’s the best years of your life. My only comment is that it’s like when pregnant people question others who say it’s the most beautiful time of their life while they’re sweating profusely, “fat”, and their body is rapidly changing. “I fail to see the beauty.” Maybe that’s an awful example because the outsider views pregnancy as an incredible experience, but nevertheless…

High school was good for me, but I would not define it as the best time of my life. I went to school and came home. I was not a joiner. August 2005 was the year of Hurricane Katrina. If you are not from here or have forgotten, destroyed this city. Well, to be clear, the hurricane itself didn’t destroy it. The levees failed causing massive flooding. It wiped out areas, killing a bunch of people or leaving them homeless.

My mom was sickly my whole life. When hurricanes would potentially come, my dad would never risk staying, compromising my mom’s health. We would evacuate early to avoid traffic and other headaches.
We left thinking we would be back in a few days. The storm will pass and we will go back home. That is not what happened.

I spent my entire senior year in Memphis, Tennessee. A place I have never been nor knew anyone. At the time, being 17 years old, what could be worse than being the brand new kid in school? I had been to the same school my entire life, knowing the same people and places. Adding to that trauma was a sick mom who seemed to be getting more and more irrational by the second. My dad checked several schools out and a private, “rich and smart” school took evacuees. My dad said he couldn’t afford to pay two tuitions. They responded, “We didn’t ask for payment”.

In Memphis, this school was co-Ed, which was different from the catholic high schools in New Orleans, which were either boys or all girls. I went to an all girls school.

Everyone at the school was extremely nice to me and welcomed us with open arms. By the end of the school year, only a handful of evacuees were left. The others were able to go home. In comparison to others, this Katrina experience was pampered.

My dad evacuated to Memphis to get away from the storm and chose to stay because they had transplant hospitals for my mom (which he found out by walking in Barnes and Noble one day and talked to a nurse who was buying a coffee before going to work). Due to the destruction, the hospitals in New Orleans were wiped out.

In October 2005 (I think), my mom had a major stroke. It turns out she had been having mini ones and was waiting for the results of a brain scan when the hurricane hit. She survived the stroke and was paralyzed on her body’s left side and would never walk or do anything for herself again. My dad and I took care of her for 2.5 years in Memphis before coming home when she decided she would no longer go back to the hospital.

Let’s go back for a second … I was 17 when all this took place but she was a brittle diabetic and sick my whole life. Everything in our family was constantly life and death. I cannot count the number of times I found her with extremely low blood sugar, had to call 911… the amount of hospital stays… the medicines … the treatment… the blood works… the side effects … health issues (every single one) of being diabetic. She seemed to have gone through everything.

I always suffered from insecurity and decided my senior year of high school to control my weight. My life seemed to have fallen apart, and I could control that. I lost 20 pounds in one school year.

I’m saying all of this to lead up to the main point of this post. My high school history teacher in Memphis looked out for me. I didn’t hang out with him nor talked to him often, but he kept me after class one day for a second and told me he lost his wife and son in a car accident years before. He was remarried, but I guess the point was he understood pain. I didn’t open up to anyone and never talked to him, but he was a major deal to me. I couldn’t care less about his class, so I did poorly. But, in his way, looked out for me. I never responded to what he said, but it meant more to me than anything. I then learned how much it means to have someone understand, and I wouldn’t truly grasp that until later.

I graduated (by deciding I was NOT going back the next year, so studied my butt off … pre-calculus, yikes). Within the year after graduation I emailed all my teachers to thank them, but my whole life goal was to return to Memphis, tell my history teacher how much he meant to me, and give him a hug. We moved home January 18, 2008, and my mom passed away the next month on February 27. I, for some reason, never drove to the school to talk to him while living there. I always planned to go back and find him.
We think we have time.

Not too long after moving back to Louisiana, I read something about him on the school’s Facebook page that couldn’t be true. He must’ve been in his 50s at the time and was a triathlete. It was winter, and he went out for a run. He slipped on some ice, hit his head, and never recovered.

He was young and healthy, and, in an unfortunate accident doing what he loved, he died. I kept googling his name, trying to be sure they got it wrong, and then I found his obituary.

I never was able to tell him what he meant to me.
The grace in this situation is that situation taught me I would never let that happen again. Since then, I obsessively tell people how much they mean to me (to the point I wonder if they will get a restraining order … half joke…). Granted, it took a long time to be able to open up. It wasn’t until I got saved in 2014 did I find my voice. Jesus was there when nobody else was, and if he accepts me, how could I get offended if people reject me.
As you can see, I have a track record for people I love dying, which only added to the emotional trauma of ‘what’s the point in getting close to people … they just die and leave you’. Yeah, Jesus had a mountain to move on that one and faithfully He did.

As sheltered as I am, my heart has been through some stuff. I wouldn’t change any of it because I wouldn’t be who I am. In the story I planned on writing but couldn’t find the words; it was how God used the most unique individual to restore my heart. In time, God willing, that story will be told as well.

Life is too short and precious. We are meant to live and love with abandon. We have to take risks. We shouldn’t keep all our thoughts and feelings inside and always wonder about it. We do not know if we will be given a second chance to make things right.

Tell people you love them and how much they mean to you. Reconcile with the person who hurt you. Maybe they didn’t know they hurt you or if you hurt them ask for forgiveness.If you cannot reconcile, or God said to move from the relationship, then deal with it and move on.Rip off the bandaid.It is better to know for certain than to live your life with ignored thoughts in the back of your mind.

It is better to give than to receive. You don’t realize how encouraging it is for a person to hear they touched just one life. Because we live in the day to day we don’t always see the trail our life is leaving. We don’t see things from others perspectives so we don’t know how much of an impact we can have just being ourselves.
Let your light shine. Jesus is the light.

Always leave people better than you found them.

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