I’d just set down bowls of chicken and rice kibble mixed with canned lamb dinner when my phone rang. I’m used to not being able to understand the grandgirl because of giggling and commotion in the background. But tonight (Monday–the day after Mother’s Day) was different. Through her panic, I finally understood her screams. “My house is on fire! My house is on fire!”
I snatched the keys from the basket and ran to the garage, only to remember my daughter had borrowed my car. I dialed 911 to report a fire. They were already on their way.
My Keens sunk and stuck in the mud as I ran through the field in cold rain. It was like a dream, where you’re running to or from something, and you can’t move at all, or you feel like you’re running in place with no progress. I saw the flames shoot through the front window and tried to push myself harder. Smoke billowed. I couldn’t see anyone outside. “Abby!” I screamed. “Grace!” But there was no answer until I got all the way across.
“I’m here!” Grace ran across the yard and fell into my arms. “My house. My house.” She was shaking and crying. Someone drove up and offered her a hoodie. The living room window broke. We heard sirens. Truck after truck after truck with red lights flashing bounced up the rutted drive edged with purple and white blooming lilacs. (The report says 8 “apparatus” and 28 personnel–and 600 gallons of water.)
My 12-year-old grand girl been home alone and was folding clothes in front of the T.V. when the curtains at her right just burst into flame. She grabbed her phone (and charger) and ran out, called 911.
Hoses snaked through the grass like cobras on the attack. One firefighter kicked in the front door. With fingers shaking, Grace and I accidentally called up phone apps and air drops and Facebook on wet screens while we tried to dial family members. At one point Grace chattered, “At least the trampoline isn’t on fire.” Then she threw herself on the ground, crying. Paramedics ran over, then offered a blanket to wrap around herself. (Where did that ambulance come from anyway? Do they come routinely?) They praised her quick thinking and fast action.
My daughter came home. My sister-in-law arrived. By the time my husband got there, they were knocking down insulation, prying off siding. I didn’t see them haul out the furniture. There was a lone small black bag that we discovered held a travel DVD player. It reeked. We’ve since tossed it in the trash.
I walked around to the other side and peeked through the open windows. Heat blasted my face. We squished through the darkened house by flashlight with a firefighter, grabbed a pair of jeans and some stray underwear here, a science school book there. We stepped over a face-down picture frame, noted all the family photos that once hung on walls were either totally gone or shriveled. The TVs were melted. The ceilings and walls throughout were black. Everything was covered with a thick layer of soot. It was surreal–like traveling into another dimension.
I’ve been washing salvaged clothes this week. Abby slipped on a hoodie yesterday that I thought smelled sweet. But she smelled smoke. My Tweetspeak friend, LW, the poetic fire adjustor, says, “Even if there is a small residual, it will fade in time. Sometimes a person is going to smell it even where it has been effectively laundered out because the scent is now a part of your whole existence.”
Grace has had dreams like trying (and failing) to get her little sister and our dogs out. We are so grateful it happened early in the evening, that someone was home, and that our Amazing Grace acted so quickly. It’s all grace.
They’ve moved in with us for now. We’ve been meeting with adjustors and investigators all week. For the moment, the thought is that it was an electrical fire–a short somewhere that found the outlet and sparked the curtains that just went whoosh. They say sometimes the rain can instigate an arc or something. It all leads me to wonder… how long has that short been there waiting to strike? How did it choose the time?
The modular structure is sound, but the inside will need to be gutted. Whether that’s economically feasible is doubtful. They’ve pretty much lost everything inside–toys and treasures and necessities. There’s some rental insurance, but not enough to come close to covering everything. But the most important riches are intact.
Chuck Swindoll slipped a devotional in my e-box yesterday. Life is short he reminds us. And it’s uncertain.
A single adjective could precede most every event in our future: “unexpected.” Unexpected surgery, transfer, change, accomplishment, loss, benefit, sickness, promotion, demotion, gift, death . . .
Because it is short, life is packed with challenging possibilities. Because it is uncertain, it’s filled with challenging adjustments. I’m convinced that’s much of what Jesus meant when He promised us an abundant life. Abundant with challenges, running over with possibilities, filled with opportunities to adapt, shift, alter, and change. Come to think of it, that’s the secret of staying young. It is also the path that leads to optimism and motivation.
We’re being refined by fire in this season. Literally. And we’re on the path to optimism.
In the stillness,
What “challenging opportunities” have you faced (or are you facing)?
What adjustments have you had to make?