What does it mean to move on?
What does it mean to find the way forward?
When I was about 19 years old and grieving the sudden death of my uncle, who was only 37 years old when he died tragically in a car accident, I read somewhere that “the beautiful thing about death is that life goes on; the horrible thing about death is that life goes on.”
More than a decade later, I watched from afar — on WhatsApp, Facebook, and international news networks — as my hometown nearly crumbled under the weight of Hurricane Dorian’s devastation. Myself and many lifelong friends similarly situated — Bahamians living abroad in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere — spent sleepless nights and anxiety-ridden days worrying about whether our loved ones on Grand Bahama Island and Abaco had survived Dorian’s wrath.
I put out my own SOS on Facebook, begging someone — anyone — to find and help my parents, who at last check, were helpless watching water gush into their home in Freeport. My sister and her husband along with their two young daughters and infant son had hunkered down at my parents’ home because it was more inland than their own and presumably safer.
My family survived without physical injury. My parents’ home — save a few repairs — held up. My sister’s house — ravaged with only the frame remaining — left little doubt what would have happened had she not fled to my parents’.
Physically, for my family, all is mostly well.
Emotionally, none of us are the same.
Candidly, I would love to soon forget those harrowing 48 hours when I watched Dorian mercilessly batter The Bahamas.
To this day, I cannot stomach the Facebook memory I get every September that resurfaces the SOS I sent out. My mother cries every time she reads it.
A few friends went home to Grand Bahama in the months immediately following Dorian; I could not.
I want the beautiful gift of moving on.
But the truth is, Bahamians touched by the unrelenting force that was Dorian may never get to that half of grief’s promise.
In the meantime, we lean on those among us who somehow muster up the presence of mind, the bravery, and unimaginable empathy required to preserve our history and unify the resources that build the bridge to get us to the other side.
Crystal deGregory and her surely lifelong project, Dorian and Beyond, are just that.
deGregory’s ability to grin and bear the sheer trauma she endured in riding out the storm herself coupled with her steadfast determination to elevate the heroism of those around her are remarkable.
This work. Her work.
They are ever deserving of our undivided attention.
They heal us and teach us how we can collectively find a path forward — albeit never too soon.
Grand Bahama native Sheena Butler-Young is a multimedia journalist with a passion for writing and storytelling. Currently, she is a senior correspondent at the Business of Fashion. In addition to breaking some of the industry’s biggest business stories, she interviews top fashion executives, designers, and celebrities, including Katy Perry, Christian Louboutin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Steve Madden, Isaac Mizrahi, and Kevin Plank.