Family finds meaning at Christmas despite damage left by Washington tornado
By Lisa Hines
EUREKA — Christmas 2014 was a Christmas like no other.
On Nov. 17, 2014, a tornado hit Washington, Illinois, at approximately 11:05 a.m. and destroyed our house. That day our world was literally turned upside down.
My husband, John, my dad, Leo, 91 (who had been living with us since 2011), and our little dog, Mr. Wiggles, were living in a very small two-bedroom house that my cousin graciously let us rent in Eureka until our new house was built. I knew immediately that there would not be much of a Christmas, if any, that year.
The best gift, and one that was much needed that Christmas, was the birth of my Lord and Savior anew in me. It was the simplest yet most profound reality of what Christmas is all about.
We were thankful no one was hurt and that many of our belongings that were in the basement were salvaged. So our Christmas decorations were still in boxes somewhere, but there was no room in the new little bitty living room for our big 7-foot tree, and I was not in any mood for Christmas anyway.
Since we were now living in Eureka, we started attending Mass at St. Luke Church. My cousin had been telling me about this great priest there named Father Eugene Radosevich, and said that I needed to go and check it out. This was my chance.
GIFT FROM GOD
She was right. I fell in love with St. Luke’s and the people there and Father Radosevich was pretty “awesome.” I loved his big beautiful voice when he sang. They were so happy to have a family there from the Washington tornado. Someone even called us their token “tornado family,” which still makes me laugh.
This was God’s first, early Christmas gift. He showed us how good He is and how blessed we were, even though we had lost nearly everything we had. I had never felt so loved by so many people who wanted to help in any way they could.
We were still overwhelmed with all that came with losing a home and having to start over. We had never built a house before. I didn’t have time to think about decorating, shopping for gifts, and cooking a Christmas turkey. I was going to let it pass by as just another day.
Well a few weeks went by and I continued to push Christmas out of my mind. Much to my surprise during the next Sunday’s homily, the Lord, speaking through Father Radosevich, who didn’t like the idea of me not wanting to celebrate the birth of Jesus, had something to say about that. I realized that pushing Jesus out of Christmas was not a good idea, and that it was Him that I needed to focus on and prepare for His coming. I walked out of church that Sunday with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude.
The best gift, and one that was much needed that Christmas, was the birth of my Lord and Savior anew in me. It was the simplest yet most profound reality of what Christmas is all about. We had no tree, no gifts and no turkey dinner, and that was OK. Our culture overcomplicates and commercializes the birth of Christ.
The picture is a copy of the one I had hanging in my house when the tornado hit. When I found it among the rubble it was still intact. It is again hanging on my living room wall and continues to be the Jesus that I go to. He speaks to me whenever I spend time in front of it.
LISA HINES is a member of St. Luke Parish in Eureka.