In January, I posted It’s Time! promising to resume writing after months of silence. Little did I know that post would become an apt ruler to measure what was ahead.
A week later my mother died. Service and burial were delayed by a snowstorm but my husband’s scheduled hand surgery was not. Nine days later, we lost our house in a 1 AM fire that destroyed everything but the cars we managed to move, our dog, Scarlett, bedroom furniture, and winter clothes. Five days later, I traveled to Raleigh to probate Mom’s Will. A week later, I returned to my hometown for a second family funeral, (my aunt) – same church, same family and burial plot. More goodbyes.
There is an old proverb that says fire, water, and government know nothing of mercy. There are no words. As jumbled and chaotic as your mind becomes, it is even more disconcerting to be unable to remember, to focus, to move about unencumbered. Still, I am determined to put what I can into words hoping the blessings, lessons and experiences of these losses can be helpful to others.
The most frequently asked question has been and continues to be “What can I do?” Initially, those who suffer loss have the same question of themselves. What DO you DO? The initial shock blocks all reason and focus. Your days are a whirling dervish.
Everyone handles loss and grief uniquely. If you are blessed with close friends and family, they will kick things into gear and forge the path ahead. As your brain puts your plight through triage, you may make calls for specific help as I did with a sweet artist/framer friend: “Please come and get the art that has been thrown into the yard and save what you can.”
For those on the sidelines with resources, sympathy and a heart to serve, but no clue what to do? My response: Think of something – ANYTHING – and go do it. Your spirit will lead you in a direction. GO! The lost and suffering aren’t always able to articulate need as they confront new absences. Others could not/would not ask for help if they were dying, yet they appreciate thoughtful gestures, surprises, actions reflecting initiative and love.
Here are some unique ways special people are blessing me and my family:
Neighbors who awoke to the fire ran to our house to be sure we were out, carried Scarlett in bare feet to their home, wrapped me in a sleeping bag, brought me shoes and made pots of coffee for the firemen; hours later they were washing socks and underwear to remove the smoke smell.
Some brave folks entered the ruins to retrieve what they could, navigating stair steps that no longer existed to find anything of value on a second floor reduced to ashes gone with the wind. Friends and neighbors brought Scarlett dog food and a bed. A huge basket with every possible dog need was sent. Infant and toddler toys and books appeared for my two granddaughters.
Food and water appeared in the back of cars. Two friends went home and returned with homemade chili for over 25 people who had worked in the fire’s aftermath. A freshly baked chocolate cake appeared. One business sent chicken fingers – the best I’ve ever tasted.
A client/friend sent a bottle of my favorite perfume-heaven scent (pun intended) amid the constant odor of charcoal and ashes. An ‘adopted’ daughter sent books to renew my lost, beloved library. Her selections reflected great love and forethought – perfect choices.
The faithful replaced wine, our favorite foods, creature comforts, and set up a meal schedule. What possessions remained had been whisked away for restoration so a former neighbor bought me a coat, a bag to store important papers in, and replaced my Daytimer.
Longtime friends provided the use of their mountain home during demolition – an incredible respite from death and fire. It allowed me to leave the ruins behind, recover, and return to a blank slate.
Gift cards – restaurants, book stores, grocery stores, box and department stores provided immediate relief for items lost and needed ASAP. Consider losses as simple as a bathrobe and as complicated as laptops, iPads, and phone chargers.
My minister and his wife arrived to hug and pray while a friend captured those sweet, sacred moments with her cell phone. A church van appeared to store what could be salvaged as rain threatened the forecast. My sister spent an entire day in the cold, wet ruins meeting insurance and restoration people. We are living in my generous cousin’s home next door. A fire fund was set up at a local bank. Total strangers still approach me to tell me they’ve been praying. It is stunning.
A bottle of champagne, cheese straws, and my feather boa appeared – essential tools I use to celebrate life. Yes, there was and is much to celebrate amid death and ashes, and I am – in Scarlett O’Hara style. By gosh, our dreams WILL NOT go up in smoke.
My gifted photographer nephew, William Baker of Light and Sound Collective shot this telling photograph from the ruins of my library, knowing me as Katie Scarlett and the impact and my fondness of Gone With The Wind. His photographs say what words cannot.
Albert Schweitzer once said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
The smallest gesture is ripe with incredible goodness. Do something. ANYTHING! You will provide sustenance to the hungry, hope to the hurting, and love to hollow spaces. You’ll be blessed.
~From the desk of Becky Morlok~
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