Now that I think about it 30 years later, it was funny, but it wasn’t at the time. My first son had a hard time accepting the fact that he had to share his home with his little sister. When they were both very young my daughter came running into house screaming and crying. I asked her what was wrong, but she couldn’t speak. I interrogated her brother. He said that he took a board and put it across a log and told his sister to stand on one end. He then climbed on top of the dog house and jumped onto the other end of the board and she went flying. I was furious. I yelled at him and asked why he would do such a thing. He said, “But, you wouldn’t believe how high she went!”
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Late one spring night, my daughter Elizabeth woke us up with screams of “Fire! The house in on fire!” My wife and I got up and walked into the hallway, which was filled with smoke. We got our youngest son Erich from his bedroom and the four of us descended through the thick smoke and out of the house. But when we got there Elizabeth was missing. I was told that Elizabeth had gone back inside to get her cat. I went back into the house, calling her name, and went to her room. I couldn’t see anything so I felt around and kept calling out her name. She didn’t answer and I couldn’t find her. I had to crawl down the stairs and back out of the house. To my surprise, there she was with the others on the sidewalk. Still one missing!
Our oldest son had a bedroom on the first floor in the back of the house. I sent the family to our neighbor’s house and went to find him. I ran to the back of the house and to the outside of the missing son’s room screaming his name. I smashed out a window with my fist and tried to climb in, but the heat and smoke drove me back. I broke through another window, thinking that the smoke would go out the other window, and tried to climb in again but was driven back. All I could do was stand there screaming his name. At that time someone found me and told me that he had been at a friend’s house and was heading home. I then went to the front of the house and just stood looking, wanting to do something. A neighbor pulled me away and brought me to his house where I found my family being cared for. They were covered with soot and looked awful. An ambulance took us to the hospital and we were given oxygen. We were told that the Red Cross had arranged a motel room for us for the night, so we found our way there. We showered and didn’t sleep, but sat around trying to grasp what had happened.
The next morning at dawn, I went back to the house. One cat had died in the fire and one was unaccounted for. The house, garage, and the two cars that were parked next to the house were in ruins.
We spent the next two nights at one neighbor’s house. Another neighbor offered us the use of her house for following week, while her family went on vacation. After that we moved into a motel. We hunted for a local place to live so that the children could go to the same school and have the same neighborhood friends, but couldn’t find one.
Dear reader, this was a very tough time for us. Yours truly was at the end of his rope. I could see that the family desperately needed a place to settle down, but I couldn’t find a place to live. By chance, I remembered that a nearby church owned the vacant house next to it. One night as it was raining, I went to see the congregation of the church during their bible study night. I sat in the back to wait until they were done. They stopped their study and asked if I needed help. I said yes, but that I preferred to wait until they were done. When they were done, I asked who I should talk to about the house and was directed to the deacon. I presented my case and he said he would think about it. His wife was there and looked me in the eyes. After a short pause she said that we could live there. The deacon just looked at her and said, “I guess that’s it then”. They drove away and I started to walk back to my car. Suddenly, for no reason, my legs gave way and I dropped to my knees. I knelt there in the rain crying from relief. We moved in the next day.
The entire Town rallied to our side. People gave clothing, furniture and money. One man even gave us his car. I remember that when I thanked him that he said, “We’re all connected right?” The local school children collected cans to raise money for us, and the local stores had jars to gather donations. One neighbor arranged for a local television station to air our story and gather donations. Everyone gave.
About three weeks after the fire, I was driving through the village. A man was sitting in a stalled truck at the intersection, blocking traffic. I pulled over, and we pushed his truck off the road. I had jumper cables with me and we were able to start the truck. He told me that he was from another state and had just bought the truck and he was headed home. He pointed at a car that had pulled up near us, and I could see what I presumed were his wife and child waiting in it. They looked tired and hungry and so did he. He was concerned that the truck would stall out again. I gave him the jumper cables and told him that if he was ever in the neighborhood again, he could drop them off. He asked where he could drop them off. I pointed at my burned down house and said, “Well, I used to live there, but you can drop them at my neighbors house right there.” About a month later, my neighbor gave me those jumper cables back. She said that when the man dropped them off, he started crying. Apparently, he was overwhelmed by the fact that I would give him something after I had lost everything else.
Four weeks after the fire, I was where the burned house stood and was planning the new one. I was talking to my son, and started talking about the cats that we had lost. I was talking about one of the cats, mentioning him by name. This very same cat suddenly appeared out of nowhere and sheepishly came to us. He was very frightened. We brought him back to the family and he settled in with us.
We decided to put up a modular home where the old home had stood. A modular home is assembled in one day, the various parts of the house fit together like giant Lego pieces lifted into place by a crane onto a prepared foundation. The night before it was to be assembled, I received a call that my mother had passed away. I drove across the state to where she lived, just to be near where she had been. When I got back home, they had assembled the house, and my family took pictures of the event for me. After one month we were able to move in.
We lost a cat and all of our possessions in that fire. Some of them were precious. Family pictures, heirlooms, children’s keepsakes. But we saved the most important things; life and hope. If you have those, everything else will work out.
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I lived in Utah, a long time ago, in the way outback, working on a construction site. There were a lot of native Navajo Native Americans working as welders. As you were talking to them, they would constantly be cracking and crunching on pinion nuts. Kind of like pistachios, but you had to crack them open with your teeth. Being the curious soul that I am, I asked were they got these nuts. I was told that their wives harvested them. I visited a neighbor/Navajo, while he was there, and asked his wife for directions. She told me how to get there and it sounded real simple. I’m simple, it should work.
I didn’t have a four-wheel drive and set out on roads for which there are no maps. I drove through massive canyons, just following the tire tracks. I must have missed a turn. At one point the road followed an old chopped up river bed and ran into a series of small ledges that got bigger the farther I got. One particular ledge made me aware that I would not get back up the same way I came. I met up with a small river I would have to cross. The tire tracks I’d been following could be seen on the muddy hill on the other side. I would have to get a running start, cross the river, shoot up the hill and make a sharp left turn.
A herd of cows were blocking the way. They weren’t disturbed by the sound of my horn. I got out and chased them away to make a hole, but by the time I started again, they had closed the gap. After a couple times of getting out and moving the cows only to have them play the same dirty trick again, I just drove like a maniac straight at them, and they parted like the Red Sea at the last minute. Scared? You bet. Lost? Of course. Several hours later I found the main highway, got out and kissed it, and headed home.
As I was driving back, I remembered that they sold pinion nuts at the general store. Not wanting to come home and lose face, I stopped and paid about five dollars for a handful of pinions. When I got home I showed them to my wife to show her that if there are pinion nuts that need finding, I’m your man. I also told her what I’d gone through to find them. She figured out where I got the pinions after a trip to the general store and after I broke under questioning.
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Recently, my 7-year-old daughter made a mailbox out of paper and taped it to the outside of her room. I began using this as an opportunity to send her notes of love and encouragement. So, at various times of the day, without her seeing me, I would sneak a note into her mailbox. That night, I put in a note for her to find in the morning. I awoke the next morning with my daughter jumping on my bed saying, “How did you do it Mommy? I got a letter from you in the night!”
Excited, she busied herself in making a paper mailbox for me, taping it to the outside of my room. And the written communication began in earnest. Notes of love continued through the week.
Two days ago, I bought her a small toy while we were out shopping together. We came home and after supper, she quickly disappeared saying, “Don’t come into my room, Mommy.” Knowing that she was working on some little project, I busied myself washing the dishes and cleaning up. Excitedly, my daughter then appeared saying, “There’s a letter in your mailbox!” And as we went to my mailbox together, I could see a rolled up piece of blue paper sticking out.
Unrolling the paper, I read her crayoned message: “Dear Mommy, I love you. Thank you for the toy. But just becuse you got me a toy dose not mane I love you more than I did be for. I could never tell you how much I love you.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as my precious girl flung her arms around me in a big hug.
As I stood there enjoying the embrace of my daughter, I was reminded that our Heavenly Father also receives such joy when we offer our love to Him with the excitement and simplicity of a child.
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It is not known who replied, but there is a beautiful soul working in the dead letter office of the US postal service.
Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick..
I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.
Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies..’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey &Meredith and this note:
Abbey arrived safely in heaven.
Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.
Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog.. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by…
Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have I picked her especially for you.
I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.
By the way, I’m easy to find, I am wherever there is love.
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Tonight I am up late… remembering. I love the power of memory as it intertwines with emotion to form a temporary reality. In quiet solitude, this gift of memory allows me to sit for awhile with my mother who passed away many years ago. It gives me glimpses into moments I will forever cherish and allows me to relive past experiences that define the meanings of my life. Tonight an open window in my mind has taken me back to a very special place where I learned a new meaning to the word “love”… « Continue reading »
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My daughter loves to watch musicals. It is one of our favorite things to do as a family. Even as young as 5, she was captivated by every musical she watched (expect for Footloose for some reason). The other night, we got blankies and piled on our bed to watch The Music Man. I was struck by a quote from the show. « Continue reading »
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My grand plans dissolved this morning as my 2 year old Elijah looked up and asked “Put the radio on?” I chose a college station and was pleasantly surprised by some Christian hip-hop as Eli donned his sister’s purple headband (all the better for dancing, I suppose) and proceeded to bust a move for a while with his Mama. He grinned and tackled quite a few snazzy routines, elbows flying as he smiled up at me. “I love my Mama,” he announced. It just doesn’t get any better than that. « Continue reading »
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Baseballs and dandelions. Its that time again. Grubby hands full of weeds looking intently in to your eyes as they thrust the fist into your hands. “For you, Mama!” My son Elijah is a one man weeding crew, ridding our lawn of the dreaded dandelion as if sifting for gold. He was sitting at the front curb picking today and I said, “E, get out of the street!” He protested, “But they’s flowers on there, mama!” But they’s flowers… He continued his mission until my curb was sufficiently weeded. « Continue reading »
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Even though it is almost summertime, this story still has some powerful meaning. Just imagine yourself into the Christmas season and enjoy…
Yes, I’m with you. I was gritting my teeth each time I walked into a store past halloween candy or scarecrows and ran smack dab into an inflatable Santa. I took my daughter to the mall, and was shocked to see the jolly old elf holding court before November 15th! I was frustrated by the voice mail my friend sent informing me that the Christmas radio station began playing holiday favorites on November 1st. Now for the confessional part of my ranting. « Continue reading »
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