In November 1932, Cayman Brac (one of a trio making up The Cayman Islands) was hit by what is now referred to as “the Cuba Hurricane.” It was a category five storm, which is the worst you can get. It was worse than the worst. The ocean roared like a lion as the giant waves started to roll in from the northwest.” wrote Caymanian Elsa M. Tibbetts in her book “The Sea of Bitter Beauty.”
I mention this because I have an indelible connection to that storm, to the island and to Elsa. My maternal grandmother Kathrine was Caymanian, also a Tibbetts and a cousin of Elsa. Her father Ronnie or Pappy as we called him, lost his sister Jessica, baby brother Cory and grandmother in a rush of ocean during the onslaught. Their wooden house on the Brac collapsed upon the family as they were sheltering underneath it. Jessica Tibbetts, my great-great aunt, broke her back and was trapped in the rubble. As her remaining family attempted a rescue she insisted they save the others instead. She knew there was nothing more to be done. Heartbreaking. The lion roared once more as a giant torrent swept in and killed her, also taking 10-month old Cory. Elsa writes; “Jessica’s watch stayed on her arm, It had stopped at 6.20am. We assumed that was the time her life was taken, along with the others nearby that lost their lives from the same waves.”
The important thing to know about storms is that they have a life cycle much like ours, there is birth to death and between those points is a growing, organized chaos and calm. I feel comfort in this connection to the elements, it only confirms the reciprocity of our existence on earth and that whatever happens, we can always refer to nature for the next step. The calm, the wind, the eye, the worst, the calm.
There have been a prevalence of storms in my life. It’s in my DNA, so is strength thanks to Jessica and the fortitude of my Caymanian family after the fact. They kept on, and I’m proud to have such stout island blood in me. It’s that which has kept me afloat, hardened me to the prickliness of life and it’s unexpected retaliations, like those roaring waves. In such moments, time stops and it is only night. But like most storms, there is an end. Nature at this conjecture outdoes expectation, almost in apology for its outburst, the sun reveals itself and all is quiet in beauty and daylight. Slowly time regains its movement
I’ve been trying to figure out how I got here and why time is still stagnant, or rather why time is moving and I’m staying put in the rain.
I want to tell you about it, I want to put out the collection of my life thus far and why it made me so sad and so happy. How I came to my storm cycle; how I celebrated in the eye and broke in the wind, but mostly how I tried to muster an iota of Jessica’s resolve to face the worst head on.