Several years ago I offered to help a family I didn’t know clean up their house after a fire. They had all been asleep when the fire started. The mother heard one short beep from the intruder alarm. It was shorter than the normal alarm sound, and she considered just going back to sleep. However, she got out of bed to see what caused the beep and realized that there was a fire in the attic. The fire had burned through the wire for the alarm system, which was what caused the beep. She quickly woke up her family. One of her sons is handicapped and had to be helped out of bed, into the wheelchair, and outside. They had just escaped their house and made it across the street when their home burst into flames. The fire department said if she had woken up one minute later, they would not have gotten out in time.
Several days later, people from their church and I arrived to help them sort out what could be kept, what could be donated, and what had to be trashed. Their home was a complete mess. The fire had caused every surface to be covered in ash, and then the water to put out the fire made everything sludgy. Sludgy darkness everywhere in the house. A beautiful home, years of memories, things, and photos were gone in one night.
A great contrast to the dark, ashy sludge of the house was the bright spirit of the family. A mother, father, and several children (I think they had 4 children – they weren’t all there when I was). The mother, in particular, kept saying, “It’s all just stuff. I am just so thankful for my family. We are all safe. I am just so thankful.” Anytime someone would mention what a shame it was that this had happened, she would reiterate how thankful she was that they all got out of the home safely.
I always cry at the beauty of this story whenever I think about it. I will always remember the love in that family and their appreciation for what really matters. What a blessing.