Feb 24, 2009

What the Fire Left Behind

Last Saturday, I got the opportunity to return a favor for a couple who had helped us when we moved into our house. He (Dennis) helped us with a "little remodeling" project (i.e. moving a wall in our living room...) and sprayed texture all over multiple walls in our house.

This is a family we've known for awhile, they attend our church, their daughters are in Sunday School with our children, they even have a little girl the same age as our little girl.

Last Wednesday, their house burned down, while we sat across from them at Bible Study, laughing and conversing. Ironically we are doing a study called "30 days to live" (something like that) and were discussing how we react during struggles in our lives.

This morning I went and worked alongside a few other souls, as we sifted through what the fire left behind. Soot covered towels, DVDs, CDs, a digital camera, soot and smoke covered figurines, family portraits in frames and Jeanette's wedding rings, all things left dirty, smoke smelling and damaged, but repairable.

Jeanette said something that really struck a chord, she pointed out that she was always embarrassed to open her home to friends from church, because she was concerned it wasn't clean enough or organized enough or... or ... or... and yet, now she finally invited us over, and all of that seemed silly considering.

I was numb as I tried to even BEGIN to imagine what Dennis and Jeanette were going through, what they are thinking, feeling, how they are existing as their world changed dramatically in 3 hours.

The GOOD: Miraculously the office or "hobby room" containing boxes of pictures and many other important mementos was mostly untouched by flame and foam. It is in the exact opposite corner of the house from the "point of origin" (which was the Master Bedroom), and the fire fighters arrived in time to stop the spread of the fire before it reached this point.

The BAD: The Master Bedroom was a complete loss, the fire's heat incinerating all clothes, furniture, and anything sentimental kept in a bedroom (including Dennis' wedding band). Because the fire spread to the insulation in the attic, the ceilings had been ripped out of 90% of the house, and everything was covered by foamy, burned insulation and ceiling. The kids bedrooms, though not burned, were completely filled with burned insulation and covered in foam, not to mention soot and ash.

The UGLY: Moments of near tears came suddenly as I attempted to diligently move out the things that were useful or important enough to attempt to restore. Their 3-year-old's room was a land mine of emotion. Soot covered baby dolls, a bookshelf of unusable books, drawers of doll clothes and dress-up clothes, fairy princess dresses hanging in the closet, all things my own 3-year-old daughter has in her room, all covered in a thick layer of soot, ash, insulation and toxic foam. A cute duck in a hat that dances and sings "You are my sunshine", that still works, though almost unrecognizable by what the fire left behind.

They inspire me. They were both still joking as they recovered what they could. An attitude of thankfulness that their dogs were in the backyard and safe, and that no one was at home. A picture of two incredible down-to-earth people who just dug in and did what they needed to do to move on from here.

In the end, it is just all stuff. The fact that it makes me hyper-ventilate a little to imagine my home burning down, shows me that I am too wrapped up in the "stuff" that makes up my world. I hope that if the unimaginable were to happen, I would respond just as maturely and calmly as they have.

I suppose all you really have to lean on, when you go through the fire, is your character, your family and the relationships you've nurtured, and of course your relationship with Christ, all the rest is just frosting... sweet, but unnecessary.

For me, this realization is what the fire left behind.

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