A Mother's Final Gift Withstands Deadly Oklahoma Tornado
POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Oklahoma - Monday marks six years since a deadly tornado ripped through Moore. So much was lost that day, but during the rubble were two, untouched perfectly wrapped wedding gifts. The presents meant everything to one survivor, gifts to one day open on her wedding day.
The sign at a farm in Macomb, Oklahoma says it all: Anderson Acres OK, Farm Sweet Farm. It's here where Melanie and Alan Anderson are planting their roots with roosters, puppies and goats. A big change from the city life they're used to living.
"It was awesome," said Melanie Anderson. "I think it's more culture shock going back to the city now."
The city is where Melanie was six years ago, when she survived one Oklahoma's most devastating tornadoes. She was Melanie Wright back then. She hadn't met Alan yet.
"I was at school with students taking cover," she remembers. "I literally watched it hit my house."
The May 20 Moore tornado leveled her neighborhood and destroyed her house.
"There were rooms that were just gone," she said.
But all was not lost. Somehow, through the splintered wood, destruction and debris, the two most important things to her were left untouched.
"It was such a gift from God," she said. "Somehow those presents were still there."
They were wedding gifts for Melanie that her mom, Cheryl, had wrapped in pretty, purple paper 12 years earlier because she knew she would never get to see her daughter marry the love of her life.
"She fought for almost two years," Melanie said. "She passed away in 2001. It was a week before my 16th birthday. Breast cancer."
So, the presents she left behind were a piece of Cheryl, a piece of her heart.
"I don't even know if I have the words of how special it is and how much it speaks about her," said Melanie.
Melanie's mom had been gone 15 years when she met Alan in April of 2016. Their connection was instant, and they were married the next year. The night before their wedding, after years of waiting, the two opened the presents together.
"It was pretty emotional," said Alan Anderson, Melanie's husband. "It was her mother's final gift, so that was really something amazing."
"There's definitely a sadness to it, but I see it just as a good reminder of who she was," Melanie said.
Cheryl gave the couple a crystal bowl and frame, which now has a picture from the day they said, 'I do.' She also turned one of Melanie's baby bonnets into a handkerchief. Melanie tucked it in her wedding dress, next to her heart, before she walked down the aisle. Now, she and Alan are having a baby of their own, a little boy they plan to name Alexander Lee. It's all proof that even through the storms of life, it does go on and that those we lose are always with us.
"It definitely represents survival," Melanie said. "So, where she did lose her life and all that came from that now it gets to represent surviving, probably one of the lower moments of my life."
And now, starting a new one.