In the wake of the fire that destroyed my beloved home, people offered me many platitudes, most of which I did not want to hear. The one I heard the most was, “At least no one was injured or killed.” And it’s true; I have to be grateful for that. But it wasn’t what I needed to hear after every single thing I owned in the world had literally gone up in smoke.
I know we’re not supposed to define ourselves through our material belongings, but they become part and parcel of our lives. And having them ripped out from under you is devastating. As I stood watching the fire department trying in vain to douse the flames that had consumed my home, I knew that life would never be the same again.
We were fortunate enough to have family members staying nearby who took us in that night, and we arrived with the clothes on our backs and some blankets the fire department had given us. I was in shock, unable to speak or process what had happened. Instead, I sat on the bed, rocking back and forth, my mind running at a million miles an hour as reality set in.
The first thing that dawned on me was that my family and I no longer existed in the eyes of the law. We had no proof of identity, so how would anyone believe we were who we said we were? It felt as if we couldn’t exist without being able to prove our identity. We couldn’t get assistance or put in an insurance claim without identification.
It was the first thing I set about doing. This might not sound like the biggest priority in the wake of a destructive house fire, but as a mother, I felt compelled to make sure that my family and I ‘existed’, that we were real, and that we got the help we needed.
Our next immediate need was clothing as we had lost everything. Our church put out an appeal, and the community was very generous. We received clothes, school supplies for the kids, and lots of food to give to my sister to help her feed the extra mouths that had descended on her home.
After weeks of wrangling with the insurance company, the claim was processed. The fire department was wonderful, supplying us with all the necessary documentation to prove that the fire had not been due to negligence.
Our house would be rebuilt, but I had neither the time nor energy to worry about what it would look like. All I wanted was to have a place for my family to call home. The contractor suggested Studio Haus, a company that took care of all the design and supply needs for our kitchen and bathrooms.
Only once I had got things as close as I could back to normal could I take the time to grieve for what I had lost. The photographs, my children’s milk teeth, the cards they had made, and so many other belongings of great sentimental value were gone. I went into a deep depression about these lost memories.
I’ve had to let go of a lot of those things that the fire consumed. But thanks to friends and family who rallied around, I still have pictures of our lives before the fire. And I decided to make a myriad of new memories with my family around me. Because those well-wishers were right: I am lucky that I mourn only the loss of my possessions, not one of the people I love the most in the world. The fire gave me a new perspective on life, and I mean to enjoy it to the fullest.