It was in the wee hours of the morning on February 9th, 2005, that our phone rang. David jumped up and answered. Even in my sleepy daze, I knew something was wrong. He hung up the phone and as calmly as he could, told me that my parents were at the hospital. Their house caught on fire and my mom was burned, but she was okay. We were to go straight to the hospital and not to the house.
My heart stopped. But my mind started spinning. The house was on fire? How badly was mom burned? Were my dad and brother okay? How did they get out? What if they aren’t okay? What if they want me to think they are okay and everyone is dying? What if I have to bury my mom, dad and brother? Oh, God. I can’t. I can’t. Please let them be okay. Please.
When we got to the hospital everyone was fine. Mom had minimal burns to her feet and a few other places, but nothing that wouldn’t heal with time. My dad and brother were okay, too. I can’t express the relief I felt knowing they were alive.
A few hours later, just before dawn, we rode over to the smoking, charred shell of my childhood home. I watched as a few small flames flickered and danced. I don’t remember a whole lot, just the feeling of shock. I do remember the smell. I don’t think I will ever forget that smell.
The next day I pushed my mom through Walmart in a wheel chair as we tried to figure out what necessities they would need. There was no forward planning. It was just one step in front of the next, one breath at a time. Where would they live? When would they go back to work? What would they wear? Would they rebuild? Buy a new home? Move away? Make it financially?
I think the hardest question of all, though, at least for me, was where was home? I knew logically that a house was a house, but we had not only lost my childhood house; it was my home. Home. Friends over. Game nights. Sleep overs. Movie nights. Pool parties. Christmas traditions. Happy tears. Sad tears. Angry words. Forgiving hugs. Silly hats. Goofy thoughts. Profound questions. Spiritual growth. My family. My life. My world. This house was where Home happened for me.
And now it was gone.
While my parents were thrilled to be alive, I mourned. I mourned what life used to be like, because now nothing was the same. I tried to deal with the changes, but looking back, instead of going with the flow, I bottled a lot of emotions. I hid my hurts from everyone, including myself, because I didn’t understand how to move forward when I so longed for what was behind.
But now fifteen years later, as I remember that life-changing night, I am thankful. Thankful for our community who enveloped my family, leaving them wanting for nothing. Thankful that the lives of my family were spared. And thankful that God never left us through it all.
Yes, transitions were rocky for a while. Christmases were hard without our boxes of personalized ornaments. New routines seemed out of place as we tried to do new things to come together as a family. No, we don’t have our old house anymore. No, we don’t do things like we used to. But I’m thankful we are all here to make new memories and traditions together. We may have lost my childhood house, but we didn’t lose our HOME.