Surviving Life’s Fires

The Phoenix invokes thoughts of rebirth, rising from the ashes, overcoming obstacles and starting fresh. It is associated with words like: survivor, strength, and defiance – to name a few. I wonder, if it might also bring up words like: trauma, devastation, fear, overwhelming uncertainty. There is also often a sense of grounding that is associated with fires – who else has sat by a fire pit staring into the flames, lost in reflection. Something about the flames strip away the noise of our busy lives and allows room for the “real” stuff to be exposed. Fires can be beautiful and healing, just as they can be destructive and terrifying.

My sister recently lost her home to a fire. The cause is unclear, it could be arson or faulty electrical components in a vehicle. I suppose it matters for insurance purposes, but the devastation is the same regardless of the cause. Everything they own is burned. My sister and her husband are two of the most selfless and loving people I know. In addition to their own 4 children, they foster 3 brothers as well. Their oldest is working out of province, so it is the two of them with 6 children, two dogs and two cats, along with various other amphibious pets. Life is usually chaotic for them, and throwing in a massive house fire has understandably put them into panic mode. They were able to get everyone out safely, as they were home at the time of the blaze, which was late evening on a school night. They were graciously offered lodging (free of charge) for a few nights with food provided, and since they are foster parents they receive additional lodging as well in a fully furnished home. Luckily, the home they were living in was a rental and they get possession of the home they recently purchased in a month’s time. The community has rallied around them with monetary and clothing donations. My sister, A, remains positive and thankful during this horrible time. She speaks to the support and love of those stepping up, and above all A is deeply rooted in the fact that everyone is safe and alive. I am in awe of A for the strength and resilience she is showing through this. It kills me to be in a different Province and unable to be there for long hugs and practical assistance. My distance has given me a lot of time to reflect upon this fire, and the far reaching impact that is a result.

I started to reflect on what I would do if a fire ravaged my home. What would I do? I don’t have a fire safety plan in place. Perhaps that is something to get working on! I look around and see my beautiful artwork and photographs. I see my mother’s rocking chair, complete with a chewed off runner from our first dog when I was a young girl. The bowls and serving dishes passed down to me, the artwork and drawings proudly drawn and painted by my daughter. I see antique wood working tools from my fiance’s grandfather, and countless books that each hold a special place for me. My rugs, couches, our 100 year old dining table and chair set. The guitar that sits in the corner of my favorite room, which was the last gift I received from my father before he passed. The clear glass shot glass from Mexico that my mother sipped Tequila from, the horse painting done by a close friend in memory of my parents. Countless journals and photo albums containing my history. All of these items that, while logically are replaceable, contribute to defining who I am.

I am reminded that although material things do hold meaning, what holds the most importance is our family and friends and the relationships that we cultivate with them. There is a quote (although I cannot remember where from) that basically says “Home is where I am with you”. And that is true, home is where we are bathed in love and support, where we are with those we love, where we are safe. In watching my sister A go through such a traumatic loss, I am determined and motivated to ensure that I am placing higher importance and priority on the people in my life. Fostering deeper connections and realizing how they are best supported is of utmost importance at this time. Equally important is to ensure that I am supporting myself, both mentally and physically. (That journey is for another blog post though!).

I suppose my main reason for posting this is to remind myself that the people in our lives are really the only thing that matters. How we treat them, support them and love them. Material items, while they are important to use, can be replaced. New items can become treasured family heirlooms. The memories we attach to objects will never go away, even if the item itself is gone. In a way, seeing my sister go through her loss is acting like a mental refresh, or renewal. I can adjust how I view the world around me, the connections I have made and make adjustments as I need to.

Fire – it is wild and untamed, destructive and terrible. Fire is renewing and beautiful. Fire, like humans is a complex and wonderful thing. How we respond to the fire, that is determined by how we choose to view the aftermath.

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