Lessons from the Ashes: Love, Loss and Letting Go

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Almost 30 years ago this week, it happened. The big fire. Yes, I am one of those who lost it all – but guess what, we are still here and that’s something to thank God for.

Not going to sugar coat it. A house fire sucks. We were extremely lucky and I learned an important lesson about loss, love and letting go. I learned you shouldn’t love anything that can’t love you back.

The fire was on July 3.

My brother (age six) and his friends had borrowed my older brother’s (age 14) firecrackers. That morning, they lit one in the bedroom we shared and since he didn’t want it to explode in his hand, he threw it in our closet toy box. Nothing happened so they walked away. By 10:30 p.m. the room was a total loss.

Fire damage was limited to one room, that bedroom. The Assistant Fire Chief was our neighbor and he was coming home from a late dinner out. He saw the smoke coming out the window, grabbed the garden hose and started in just before his colleagues arrived. He saved the house – literally. We had lots of water damage all over, but we all slept at home that night. Some of us were on the floor, but hey, we were home.

No one was hurt. This was because our house was full. The Thomas adoptees that weekend were some of my older brother’s college basketball teammates – hanging out in C-town for the Fourth of July Run. It was one of them who noticed the smoke. With all those visitors, we had stayed up late. It’s hard for me to even think about what could have happened if we had been in bed.

If you know me well, you may know I am militant about keeping my closet and dresser closed. This was a lesson from the fire. We didn’t have doors on our closet and the clothes that did survive the fire were the ones in closed dresser drawers.

An almost-nine-old, I had reached some of life’s milestones such as First Communion and Pee Wee Football Cheerleading. I will never forget watching my dad carry my white dress and cheerleader uniforms out to the trash. They were custom-made back then. And I had a feeling my cheerleading career was over. If you have ever seen me attempt any sort of rhythmic activity, well, yeah, that feeling was spot on.

All the family papers and photographs my parents stored in that closet? Didn’t care. In my young mind, my brother and his friends were going to pay for those dresses FOREVER!

I admit a few well-placed jabs over the years for those boys. But really, I learned an important lesson that day. My mom told me something and it stuck. I still try and live by it – never love something that can’t love you back. House, a car, clothes, toys, jobs, money, titles, status, whatever you think you love. It can’t love you back. Remember what’s important in life.

Oh, and try and live down the street from a firefighter.

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2 thoughts on “Lessons from the Ashes: Love, Loss and Letting Go

    Seth Preston said:
    July 5, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Good stuff, Alice.

    Gayle said:
    July 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    I remember the fire. I hadn’t thought about it in along, long time. But you’re right, it is something that sticks with you. I think about my parents fire often. I think about how lucky they were to have a neighbor in the right place at the right time as well. Wow, thirty years….

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