One thing I learned in therapy during the last 8 months is when there is tragedy, no matter the cause, the emotional response is always the same. During Harvey I knew how the victims felt, not because our house flooded, but because I know what it feels like to loose everything suddenly. I know what loss FEELS like.
Today, California is on fire.
I don’t know all the details. I know its the Napa, Sonoma region. I know it’s traveling fast and winds are a problem. I’ve seen posts on Facebook and I’ve only glanced at them and then scroll quickly past because seeing the smoke and the char, I know EXACTLY how that feels. I can smell it. I can taste it in the air. I can feel the pain in my core.
California, I am not ignoring you by not reading all the news coverage, I am protecting my heart and mind. Still, all the while I am hurting with you. My heart aches for what I know you’re experiencing. You are in my prayers and thoughts and in my heart. But I am also here to say there is hope.
Yesterday, exactly 8 months from the day of our fire, a company came and demolished what was left of our home. It took 20 minutes to burn to the point of no return and it took 20 minutes for an excavator to take it down.
I thought I would feel the same things all over again, the pain, the heartache, the terror, but I didn’t. At first we were all a little stoic, still concerned about how the day would unfold. But by the time the excavator started chomping at our house, I could not remove the ridiculous smile off my face. Joy was beaming out of my face like a giant idiot.
The excavator arrived late so the demo job coordinator (and a good friend of our family) went into the house and pulled out all of the bottles of wine that were still left in our house. While some had actually shot their corks out and spilling during the fire, many, many remained, they had boiled, but the corks were only half way out, and definitely not worth drinking.
We took turns throwing the bottles at the brick of our house. Watching them crash and letting the smell of wine, for only a moment, take over the smell of burn and decay.
Then a friend went in and grabbed cans of spray paint and I wrote “strongerthanfire.com” largely on the wood that covered the gaping hole that was once our garage.
For 8 months the house had sat there, like a monolithic reminder of that horrible day. We drive by it every day to get to our rent house. It has silently and unknowingly haunted us.
The brick pillars on the porch that I always hated, we took sledge hammers to them and watched the bricks crumble. I felt powerful and strong (but also like I really needed to start doing pushups cause that sledge hammer was HEAVY).
By the time the excavator arrived we’d all gone from solemn and quiet to boisterous and triumphant. In those moments of throwing wine bottles and spray painting and breaking bricks, we took back what was taken from us. With each fallen brick and smash of wine and broken window pane we said, “screw you fire you may have taken our things, our dog, our home but that day you did not take my husband and you will certainly not take our joy from here forward”.
Currently, as I write this, they’re loading what is left of the rubble into trucks to haul it away. They’ll sweep the foundation clean with the excavator and the mattress we purchased three months before the fire. This weekend our builder will come and start moving plumbing and the physical rebuild process will officially commence. I’m overjoyed that this is finally happening, that we can see light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. We’ve been walking that tunnel for 8 months, its been a hard, hard road. It’s certainly not done. We will still cry over the loss, over the trauma. We will still miss our dog and our home and what was. I don’t think that ever leaves you, it just stops being the main thing that guides you.
Today, hope guides us. The future guides us. At the same time that our house was being demolished I took the first official steps towards a new career and new dream, something that has sat in the shadows of my heart for years. I applied for Chip Gaines ChipStarter project. I don’t know that I’ll be chosen, but making the video forced me to put what was in my head on paper, to make plans and to look towards the future. It was hard to make. I may have cried once during the process. But it’s my heart smashed into a 2 minute video. If you care to take a look you can find it here https://chip-starter.com/dreams/coppice-burgeon/
On February 10th our house burned down, on October 10th we got our hope back. California, I know you’re just at the beginning. We’ve written this blog because of what we felt then. There is hope, and my prayer for you is that it finds you.