Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Of Fire & Mercy

There’s nothing like being in survival mode to get you sober, off that high of life that can be misleading, detaching you from the mediocre, the material. I can only really attest to my personal experience with this, and feel sheepish sometimes talking about it, but lately my writing obsessions have turned to ways I can share my life with others--with those I love and those who don’t love me back, per se, but maybe need to hear a message of hope or change or destruction, and what comes of it.

When I start writing about other people’s survival, I get on shaky ground, but here goes.

At 5 am on a recent September morning, my husband woke me and gently said we need evacuate--our next door neighbor’s house was on fire. The panic that welled in my chest was a surprise even to me--and hours later, sitting and writing about this, I wonder what I would have done had we been the ones fire had chosen this particular moment. This reaction I pushed down to put on a straight face for Isabella, rouse her from her warm little bed, snuggle her against her father’s shoulder as we went out the door, prepared to care for our neighbors' children, to distract them.

Nothing prepared me for what I saw--for the fire’s proximity, its ugliness, its sheer terror. Smoke pouring out of the front rafters, flames licking high up into the air on the right of the house, where the garage and kitchen were. The noise and lights of the fire trucks. Half hearing our neighbor say the only reason she woke up was because of the doorbell ringing. Not knowing still who rang it, or if this was an electrical shortage. Feeling blessed. Shell-shocked. Praying together spontaneously.

The flames reaching for the sky, grasping for air.

A few things became clear without prompting: that adults are meant to protect children physically and mentally from harm; that the randomness of suffering leads us down paths we’d rather not follow; and that regardless of circumstance, we’re called to respond. However small our acts (of mercy, of courage, of hope) might be, they are responses to the reality which shapes and gives our lives meaning.

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