The Woman Who Loved Storms

On the afternoon of May 7, 2002, a large tornado hit my home town, Pratt, Kansas. My brother Vernon, Pratt County Sheriff, immediately called our parents and told them to get to the hall bathroom and stay there. When he later dropped in to check on them, he found them standing at the sliding glass door, gazing at the beautiful terror of the storm.

       Mom was always ready to trade safety for the thrill of dazzling and dangerous spectacles. Her love of ominous Kansas weather forged one of the anchors of my life. She loved the very things which sent others diving into storm cellars or basements.

       Not only was she unafraid, but blizzards, thunderstorms, and even tornadoes brought pure squealing-with-delight joy to Mary Chinn. And she passed it on to her children. Mom’s exuberant enjoyment of storms was wonderfully infectious; we caught it the same way people catch colds.

       The great blizzards of my childhood served magical gifts to the Chinn boys. They kept us home from school, drew us outside to play in the snow, and gave us Mom’s “snow ice cream” (vanilla, sugar, and cream in a bowl of snow). Surely, we were the only children in the world who had ever tasted such a magnificent dessert. 

Beyond Burger King

I’m grateful for the great virtues and lessons that I learned or caught from Jack and Mary Chinn. But a love of storms may be the most valuable legacy handed down to me.

       Why?

       Because God loves storms. They reflect an essential part of His nature, and they also comprise the planet’s fleet of big transport trucks that haul temperature and moisture to places that need them. Furthermore, by learning to love what the Creator loves, we find new alignment with God.

       Mom loved and lived the words of the old hymn,

“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed”[1]

       Mary Chinn would rather have known the “awesome wonder…of rolling thunder” than safety.

       But, in our consumer age, many people turn away from wonder in their reach for control. They prefer the words of an old Burger King ad: “Have it your way.” 

       A storm, however, is a powerful reminder that a great sweep of life lies beyond our control. We cannot choose the timing, the target, or the intensity of a storm. A tornado or hurricane is an enormous swirling billboard that announces, “You can’t have it your way.” 

Nature’s Theater

I’m forever grateful that I grew up beneath the large canopy of south-central Kansas sky. We had front row seats at the grand theater of nature. I slept in the backyard as often as possible; the night sky overwhelmed and charmed me. And few natural exhibitions can be as thrilling as a black thunderhead boiling up out of the western Kansas horizon.

       We grew up knowing that a storm might kill us, but it couldn’t destroy us. We knew life was a continuum; it would go on… somewhere! Nature held no threat over our real life. Knowing that released us from the fear of death, a fear which keeps many from living a full life.

       After living a very full 96 years, Mom died November 1. The weather forecast for the day of her funeral and burial called for 37 degrees and light wind. But, when we arrived at the cemetery, the temperature was 22, and snow came horizontally out of the north.

       I could almost hear her laughter in the wind.


[1] “How Great Thou Art,” Stuart K. Hine

20 thoughts on “The Woman Who Loved Storms”

  1. Ed,
    What a wonderful view of how we were raised and the heritage that was passed to us! So glad to have been taught to embrace the storm!

  2. Nice. I didn’t know of her fearlessness and love of storms…I do know of her laughter. I’ll bet you’re right; she is most assuredly laughing still!

    1. Thanks, Dewey. You certainly had a ringside seat for viewing her life. And, you were always one of her favorites. You were also a partner in her stories and laughter.

  3. I loved this. It was so true in every respect. I never made the connection until today, but I never “run” in rain or because of a driving cold wind. If I’m in it, I’m going to experience it. All of it. Thanks Mom.

    1. And I didn’t make a connection to this till now…her sons and most (all?) her grandkids love stormy weather. What a great impartation! Love that. Thanks, Carl.

  4. I love this line: A tornado or hurricane is an enormous swirling billboard that announces, “You can’t have it your way.”

    The eternal, independent, self-existent God, whose purposes spring from Himself has arranged the planet’s HVAC system to announce in terms abundantly clear that we are not in control. Only a blind and futile mind would behold the power that so captivated your mom with awe of God and remain convinced that “do what you will” is the first and great commandment.

    As always, thank you Ed, for another lesson in the beauty of virtue. I wish I had known Mary and look forward to getting to know her one fine day.

  5. Ed, what a beautiful tribute to an obviously amazing woman. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of her! My favorite was your brother finding your parents in front of the sliding glass door in a tornado! May you be comforted with the marvelous memories of your mom’s delight in God’s handiwork, and continue to share her with those who never got to meet her.

    1. Thank you, Pam. I love that image too. By that time, Dad was drifting away into dementia. So, Mom was certainly the leader of that little adventure out of the safety to get a better view! I guess she thought if the house was going to be airborne, she wanted a window seat!

  6. Thanks for writing this, Ed. Yes, I do believe you heard her laughing as the horizontal snow honored her passing. I wish I could have known her. From what Steve has said, I think he felt very safe and at ease with her – quite a gift for him at that time in his young life.

  7. Ed,
    Just your title is so unique & fitting. Though I was not around her your depiction describes her beautiful uniqueness. The post above from family & friends that knew her well, is a testament of your precious perspective!

  8. Ed, I truly loved reading this blog about your Mother and growing up in Kansas. It was truly liberating to experience the feelings of your Mom’s love for nature and her faith in Almighty God! I could picture the whole scenario in my mind. I was privileged to meet your dear Mother and I was so blessed by her love for life and people. God bless your family. Thank you!

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