Troy Hardy stood amid the wreckage of his lakefront home in Smith’s Station, Ala., Monday afternoon. The house where he had lived with his wife, Susie, for 17 years was in ruins. A tornado had come through 24 hours before — while he, his grandson and his wife were home — and destroyed everything.
When he realized a tornado was bearing down on them, he started screaming his wife’s name, but the tornado was so loud he knew she couldn’t hear him. He told a Washington Post reporter that he found Susie in their bedroom. She had put their 4-year-old grandson onto the bed and gotten on top of him to protect her with her body.
Hardy grabbed another mattress and pulled it over the three of them — and then he covered them with his own body to protect them as much as possible. And then they waited in terror as the tornado destroyed the home around them.
“It’s hard to explain, or even really talk about,” he told the Post. “It was everything we had. But all of it is replaceable. My wife, my grandson, they’re not replaceable. Nothing matters more than life.”
After the storm had passed, Susie Hardy called her daughter, Mallory, who had been at a church luncheon along with the older brother of 4-year-old Wyatt. Susie told Mallory there was no way for them to get out, but Mallory was desperate to get to her son.
Mallory was only a few miles away, but the roads were littered with downed trees and power lines. Someone from church drove Mallory as far as they could go before massive power lines in the road prevented driving any farther.
Mallory took off her wedge-heeled shoes and started walking. She walked in bare feet for three hours over broken land, but she finally got to her son and was able to hold him. She walked back to her friend in his vehicle and they went to town to stay for the night. Troy and Susie spent the night in their Jeep.
The family’s story is much longer and the Post reporter did a nice job of telling it, so I encourage you to read the story. But I’m concerned with one simple point.
Troy Hardy lost everything he owned in that tornado. He lost a house which he obviously loved. There’s no telling what else he lost. There are probably many personal items which can’t be replaced.
But he had his priorities straight as he stood amid that wreckage Monday. He wasn’t complaining about how bad it was to lose his home and other possessions. He was grateful that his wife and grandson had been saved.
There are very few material things in our lives which can’t be replaced. Even those few things which can’t be replaced won’t devastate us to lose them.
And the truth is the most of the people in our lives are replaceable. We might be sad about their loss. It might be difficult to get past losing them.
But a few people — very, very few of them — are irreplaceable. Your job is to figure out who those people are — and hold onto them.
Most of us live our lives as though we have forever to live it as we want to. We act as though we have forever to love as we want to. But the truth is that life is very limited. There’s a clock ticking for all of us.
You need to know who really matters in your life. You need to build your life around those people. Everything else is expendable. Everything else can be replaced.
If you’re not clear about your priorities, the time is going to come when it’s too late.
After watching everything he owned get wiped out, Troy Hardy has had a first-hand lesson in what matters most to him. Few of us ever have the choice so clearly drawn for us.
If you and I are wise, we’ll realize what’s at stake and live our lives every single day for the few who matter — not for the many who don’t.