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Small miracles amidst devastation

This is not your normal Tales from the Grave post, as it doesn't involve the life of a particular person. However, it involves an event that will sit in my memory for a long time and it has a happy ending.

February 28, 2022. The day we evacuated from our home in Woodburn, NSW. Photo: Nat Chapman

On February 28, 2022 my family evacuated from our house of 13 years in the little riverside village of Woodburn on New South Wales' Northern Rivers. Normally a beautiful little place with views of the surrounding canefields and distant hills and a stroll to the banks of the Richmond River, it was fast becoming a storm and flooding nightmare.

We watched as the water from the overhead storm filled up our backyard, with a stream rushing through the back lane, then covered the front yard completely. We lifted all our belongings from the first floor to the second floor in the hope of keeping everything dry. It was not to be.

The flood hadn't reached its peak at this stage. It would eventually make it to the same level as the top of the bottom windows.

Once the waters receded we were able to go back and survey the damage. It wasn't pretty. Despite our efforts, the waters had entered the second floor by a metre, destroying all our furniture and many loved possessions. My biggest priority was to save my mother and grandmother's jewellery. However, in my rush I forgot to take my great-grandfather's medal that he received as a police constable in Glasgow, Scotland back in 1906.

My aunt had only recently given me the small medal, nestled in its original box. I had stored it with all my inherited jewellery in the top drawer of my dresser. On top of that my husband had misplaced his father's navy medals and was unable to find them when we were cleaning out the house.

It wasn't until I was chatting on the phone to my cousin one night, I realised I hadn't seen my great-grandfather's medal when I was cleaning the jewellery I had rescued. I felt sick. My husband suggested we go to the house and check through the huge pile of rubbish that was now home to most of our possessions.

This is where we found my g-grandfather's medal. Can you see it? Photo: Samantha Elley

We had an idea where the bedroom items had been thrown and started to search in that area. I saw a jewellery box and pounced on it. It was empty but I knew it had been in the same area as the box containing my great-grandfather's medal. Then I saw it. Balancing precariously on a wooden beam was the medal. It was so small, it would have been easily overlooked. The box had disappeared but we had the medal.

Here 'tis!

It was a miracle in itself that I happened to be standing in the right spot to glance down and find it. I then decided to get greedy and ask for another miracle, to find my father-in-law's medals.

We moved more rubbish around and found a few items we decided to salvage, but no luck with the medals. My hubby was ready to give up and I had to agree with him. I moved one more item and there, wrapped in their plastic home, were the navy medals. Our second miracle.

Sadly, the flood claimed much of my family history paperwork, but I will always be grateful for the small win that finding our medals represents.

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