What Is Left After The Fire Has Been Put Out

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One week and five days have passed since it happened. Today, I stood outside the home that my parents bought when I was six years old. It was the home that I lived in until I was in my twenties. It was the home that I spent many years growing up and making memories and it is those memories that made me who I am. It was my experiences while I lived here that have shaped me into the woman that I am today. This was no house to me. This was no arrangement of bricks into an organized floor plan of rooms filled with things. This was the beginning of my life and who I am today.

As I stood in the driveway and stared at the space where my room once was, I was surprised that with the gentle breeze that there was still an odor of smoke. It was the odor of charred wood, charred belongings and charred memories. I looked up to the second floor where my room was, growing up, all that was left of it, that is. There is a piece of the torn screen from my window that just blew in the breeze. It waved at me and taunted me to come closer. It begged me to stare a little longer.

I walked around to the back of the house, still focused on where I had spent so many years sleeping in a twin bed placed too few feet away from the twin bed of my sister. My eyes are fixated on the sky that is rudely peering into my home. It stares down with torment through the gaping hole that was once a roof. It really isn’t even a hole… it is just gone. The chimney stands so proud in the corner of my room laughing at me. “I made it”, I hear the stupid thing say. The chimney won’t be so proud when the excavators come in and rip it from its foundation.

Out of the back window, where my bed used to look out, I could see the magnolia tree in full bloom. It always looked so close from my window, but I knew when I was outside that it was farther away than I thought. We’d play under that tree, in that tree, around that tree and with that tree. I remember the bug hospital that we made there one summer. We were ready to save any bugs in need. I think we squished more than we saved, but it was a good memory.

I remember the pool that sat just below my window. I was of course on the second floor and always wondered if a jump into the pool was possible. It was surely not, as it was only a four foot pool, but I still had to ponder it. That pool we spent many hours in creating whirl pools and having raft fights. I’m pretty sure there was a couple skinny dipping episodes too. On senior skip day, I cut out of school early and ended up home by myself. I laid out in that pool on the most perfect sunny day. I floated for hours and enjoyed life.

I can remember playing outside in that yard like it was yesterday. We had so much fun. Before we all got older and moved away, where the garden is… was, there stood a basketball court. Not regulation and yes it was a grass court but we played some serious games of horse there. I remember my friends being there for a party and all joining in, until one slam dunk and the glass backboard cracked someones head. Party was over and a couple of stitches to seal the deal.

The stairs below my window that led up to the porch were always a good place to rest. My brother was stung in the finger by a wasp as he ran his hand down the railing. The wasp was just sitting on the metal railing and he ran it over with his hand. I guess he deserved to get a nip. The same stairs, I dropped my younger brother on as a baby. He couldn’t have been more than a year or so and I daringly tried to carry him up the concrete steps to give him back to Mom. I dropped him right on his head only two steps from the bottom. I felt terrible. Later it became a joke, “if Cherise hadn’t dropped you on your head as a baby… such and such wouldn’t have happened.”

Up the stairs to the porch the weber grill always sat. I can remember how many barbecues my Dad would douse with lighter fluid to get them going. There were several times that cars would stop as they drove by to check and see if the house was on fire. “Thanks but we are just grilling some burgers.” Car after car would think we were in distress as the waft of smoke circled out of the grill and around the corner of the house right past my bedroom window. If I had the air conditioner on at the time it would suck the smoke right into my room. Lessons learned, I guess.

One week and five days ago, cars drove past and stopped also. This time there was no guess of a barbecue. They just dialed 911.

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When I first arrived, my body was shaking. This is what you see on the news and in movies. It is not what you see in your own life. It is not what you see happening to your home, your parent’s home. Every day the news has reports of another fire. I don’t know a single one of those people. They can not be real. I know those people now.

This is the moment that I drop to my knees and pray that it will be alright. As I stare all around and the noise and sirens and horrible racket pierce my ears, it is quiet in my mind and I pray that it will be alright. My parents are alive, my brothers and my niece are all safe. I pray that it will be alright. I pray that this maddness will stop. The seconds take an hour to pass and the firemen move at a snails pace while I pray that it will be alright. The world is on pause for that moment as I pray that it will be alright. Suddenly, I am sucked back into reality and the noise returns with the smoke that is so thick it covers the sun. It blocks it’s smiling face from over my house. The smoke tells that sun where to go and who is boss, and it becomes darker.

I watch for hours as the firemen battle back and forth with the devil in my parent’s home. They get a step ahead and the demon laughs at them and begins to destroy more. It has a mind of its own and it rips through room by room spitting ash and flame on the life and the memories that we all shared in this home. It sneers at all of us while we watch through bloodshot, smoke filled and teary eyes. It laughs at us for thinking that it will allow us any chance of having those things or memories back. This fire was a monster.

I used to have nightmares of this monster when I was little. I remember running downstairs after being put to bed. I’d be crying because I was so afraid of the house being on fire. Mom would point out all of the fire alarms. She would reassure me that it was safe and she would tell me to stop thinking about fires. “The more you think about something, the more it can happen.” After that, I was too afraid to think about fires, so I didn’t. Until now.

As I stare at the despicable remains of my once home I feel vomit rise into my throat. That fire toyed with my home, my parent’s home. It tormented all of us as we stood there and froze as we watched hose after hose shower into our home. The fire ripped through the place like it owned it. It knew what it was coming for and it wouldn’t dare leave until it got every last bit. It took my parent’s and brother’s home, their pets, their belongings, their hopes and their dreams along with every single one of my memories and it scorched and singed them all until they were unrecognizable.

The dinning room floor melted into the basement. Where we ate Thanksgiving dinner at the table, I look now and see it leaning down into the pit where there is no longer a floor. A few chairs are tipped against the table, using it to hold themselves into the room and to save them from falling into the hole as well. The rest of the chairs are in the basement black as tar and brittle from the scorch.

In the days after, we were able to tip toe at our own risk and look at what was left. A few things were pulled out. Some dishes and jewelry. A few pictures. Nothing that can even compare to thirty years of life. There were six of us that shared that house for many many of those thirty years and we couldn’t pull out anything to add up to that.

I am, we are all, grateful that this past week was spent mourning a house, a home and a landslide of memories instead of attending funerals. I am thankful that I was able to help my parents with phone calls and emails and fundraisers instead of addressing their last wishes. I am more than aware that the things in that home are meaningless without the people, I am happy that I still have my family.

Nonetheless, I am sickened by the sight of that pile of bricks that once was my home. I am sickened by the hole in the floor in the dinning room and even more sickened by the hole that is in my mother’s heart. I look at her and see broken. That fire ruined my home and it has put a scar on my Mom that I am not sure how long it will take or if it will ever heal. I look at the emptiness inside of both her and my Dad and I realize what has truly been lost.

The things don’t matter. Sure they don’t, but fires ruin far more than things.

I know, our memories will always be our memories. Ya but sometimes you feel comfort in driving past them once in a while.

I know that this could’ve been so much worse, but it is bad enough.

I know that some good will come out of this. I believe with all of my heart that there are reasons and plans behind everything in life. It isn’t my job to question them or second guess them so I do not, but even still, I do not have to like what has happened.

I am not ok with what has happened and I don’t think that I ever will be. My Mom and Dad are not ok with what has happened and I don’t think that they ever will be.

We are all broken from this. Each and every one of us that lived in that house, we are all broken by this.

The news reports fires daily, and I don’t know a single one that they’ve happened to. Until now. Now I know all of them. I promise you, that they are all broken.

I pray that day by day my family may heal from this tragedy. I pray that someday the pain and fear would lessen in each one of us. I pray that the blessings that my parents so deserve will be showered upon them in the coming year and the sun begins to shine over the place where my home once was. I pray for each and every person who has ever suffered from a fire. I pray that they also would find peace and healing with time and that their lives be made better with the blessings to come. I pray that our brokenness will guide us in the years to come to be the people that we were meant to be and that we let it help us to help others who are suffering as well. I pray that if you have never experienced the loss of a fire that you never do and I pray that you would keep the rest of us in your hearts.




If anyone would like to make a donation to benefit my parents please use the link below. All donations will be used to rebuild their lives one day at a time. Thank you all who have already supported my family through prayer, love and your donations. It is all of you that are making it possible for my parents to keep moving forward when it would be so easy to give up.




I’m Dying…. And So Are You

Dear World,

My whole family has suffered from the cold of the century this past month. It is a lingering, annoying, disgusting little bug that has riddled each one of us with a months worth of dirty tissues, nagging coughs and endless sneezes. I’m confidant that we are on the home stretch of this germ fest but there are still the last few sniffles that remain. My sleep has been dramatically effected, as it is hard to breath when you can’t breath. Brian, the concerned and loving husband that he is, asked me the other day how I was feeling and I responded with “I’m dying”.

Well it was true. We are all in fact dying. I realize it was a little harsh, when he was really asking how I felt at the present moment and if I had had a better nights sleep. He glared at me unamused and I shrugged it off as a joke, but I’m not sure if I was joking.

You see, I am dying. Not today, hopefully, but I am going to kick the bucket someday. I don’t get to know when that day is so for all I know, it may be tomorrow. I’m not trying to be morbid and creepy, there really is a point to this.

I think about the people that are sentenced to death from cancer. The doctor tells them that they have six months to live. What do they do? They sure as heck don’t live like they have forever. They surround themselves with the ones they love. They do the things that they have always wanted to. They take every minute of every day as a gift because their time clock is on its final countdown.

How about people that work in the armed forces to protect our country. The men and women that fight on the front lines where it is most dangerous. I can bet my life that when they are home on a leave that they are counting every blessing and every minute because they don’t know if they will have them again. Their time could expire the next time they are deployed so they make every minute at home count.

For some reason, when our brain realizes that we may be almost done here, that is when we want to hold on for dear life. Think about the five year old at a park. After an hour they start to slow down and tucker out. You can tell that they don’t have much energy left so you give a five minute warning. Suddenly the energy returns with gale force. When the clock was endless it is easy to become complacent and tucker out. When the clock is ticking suddenly every slide must be hit once more. Every swing must be swung.

I think it is a brilliant lesson to be learned. I want to hold on for dear life. The same as the patient dying of cancer and the soldier ready for war and the five year old with a five minute warning. We all have no idea when our five minute warning will be or if we will even have a warning.  Tomorrow is promised to no one. We are all going to die and we have no idea exactly when.

I certainly don’t want a diagnosis of cancer and tomorrow I’m definitely not going to jump out into oncoming traffic just to see if I’m meant to be here. However, I do wonder if we could all live a little better of a life if we had in our mind that tomorrow really might be it.

I have recently started to wake up in the morning and before my first sip of coffee, I thank the Lord for another day. I am realizing that it is a gift to just be here. I thank God for Brian and my kids waking up yet again and I start my day.

I also have started to take snip its of the day and live them in slow motion. All too often I rush around the house doing chores, working, getting kids ready, just the tasks of living. I rush through them to the point that I am numb to them and even hate them from time to time. The new me is trying to make moments count. I am trying to live in slow motion.

I would despise getting up in the morning and having to get everyone ready. Uggg it is the worst part of my day. We fight over outfits that I picked out, fight over what shoes to wear, fight over breakfast and what to pack for lunch.  The morning was the worst part of my day until later when something else happened to take the title. I sat in traffic and was late to work. I forgot to pack my own lunch and didn’t eat all day. I was late picking Jacob up from school….again and looked like an idiot. Uggg it is the worst part of my day. Dinner was terrible and everyone hated it, I despise every second of homework, bathtime never came because I suck at being a mom. Ugggg it is the worst part of my day.

I would feel this way every day. I still slip back into it here and there, but I am trying to re-frame my way of looking at the worst parts of my day. I love that I was blessed with the ability to wake up today, so many are not. I’m overjoyed that I have made a daughter so independent that she would want to choose her own outfit. If shoes are the biggest problem I have today, I am a lucky girl. I may have burnt the toast but I couldn’t be more thankful that we have food to eat at all. I may have skipped lunch today but it gave me a chance to catch up on some phone calls that needed to be made. I was late again but Jacob smiled at me just as if I was on time. Homework is quality time spent with one of the loves of my life. The dirt and the bath will be there tomorrow. Hopefully, so will we.

All the things that were the worst things, really don’t mean anything. Do you think that the person with six months to live is thinking twice about any of this. I should hope not, so why am I? I too am dying. You are dying. We are all dying.

I am dying, so every moment needs to count. Tonight for the first time ever, I let the kids decorate our Christmas tree all by themselves. It was a slow process that left a very bottom heavy tree with many sparse spots but I watched as Cassidy went up and put on one ornament and then Jacob. Every second was enjoyed and cherished, even the moments when I had to snap at them to slow down. I can look at each and every ornament and tell you who hung them. We didn’t decorate just to get it done. We did it with purpose. This was a night to remember. It was a night to cherish. Tomorrow will be the same … if it should come.