Where do you begin when the map you'd planned for your life is torn to shreds in front of you?
For the Helmly family, that question became stark reality early last Tuesday. Their 17-year-old daughter, Cheryl, was killed in a car wreck on her way to school.
By all accounts, Cheryl was a superior student - and an even better human being. Just look at the words of Robin Dudley, who called the day of Cheryl's death one of the most difficult in her career: "She was beautiful inside and out. She loved everyone she met. She was always kind, considerate and compassionate. ... Cheryl was my inspiration."
A few days later, hundreds gathered at First Baptist Church to pay their respects to a life snuffed out too soon.
Who knew that just a few hours later, people across McDuffie County would also be trying to figure out their next step?
The tornado that ripped through McDuffie County wasn't my first. I'd covered a similar storm in Lincoln County several years ago.
But this one was different.
This one dropped trees on the homes and cars of folks I consider friends, folks I could only hug as we looked at the destruction.
Many said how happy they were that no one got hurt; homes, cars and other items can be replaced, they said. And they were just as happy to lend a hand to a neighbor.
As I drove through several neighborhoods Saturday, I couldn't help but smile when I saw people from across our community working together - black and white, rich and poor.
Say what you will about our community sometimes, but when it matters, we'll come together. And together we can overcome anything in our path - even if it was blown there by Mother Nature's fury.
Meanwhile, America quietly marked a milestone Monday, as the 25th anniversary of the death of John Belushi passed.
Now, many of you may know I'm a huge fan of comedy. My satellite radio is usually tuned to one of the comedy stations, and I have stacks of humorous CDs and mp3s.
John Belushi was one of the first comedians I can remember that made me seek out his material. From his stint as Animal House's Bluto - the guy who could imitate a zit - to a samurai (and the hilarious Joe Cocker) on Saturday Night Live to Jake Blues (in the unquestionably best incarnation of The Blues Brothers), he could switch from sharp subtlety to in-your-face outrageousness.
Much like Sam Kinison, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley and others, John Belushi was a candle snuffed too soon.
That seems to be happening all too often, whether it involves a celebrity whose behavior could be considered an omen or a high school student who shined as bright as anyone could.
Either way, appreciate those closest to you. You never know when - in a gust of wind, or the glare of the sun - they'll be gone.