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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TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s!!
First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.
Then, after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, and, when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads.
As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.. « Continue reading »
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Eighteen years ago I stood looking at you—fresh-born—through the big glass window in the hospital nursery, watching the nurses try to count your tiny toes. Minutes old, you were bright-red-screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs unbounded life, squirming and kicking in every direction—quite a challenge to those toe-counting nurses. How I wanted to reach through the window, to be closer to you as you celebrated your newfound freedom. From behind the glass, I breathed a promise: I would never stand in the way of your freedom. « Continue reading »
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Dr. James Dobson’s book, “Stories of the Heart and Home” illustrates that special romantic love that we dwell on during Valentine’s Day so beautifully, I just had to send it along to all of you. “But nothing is so beautiful as a loving relationship that conforms to God’s magnificent design”. Here is a brilliant example of this divinely inspired love. It was written by the surgeon who experienced it. Perhaps you will be deeply moved by his words, as was I. « Continue reading »
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My mom passed away two months ago. I have not been the same since. Not just because I lost her, but because of what I learned about my two college age sons.
The first thing they each said when I told them of her aggressive cancer diagnosis was, “How soon can I go see her”, halfway across the country. Neither had the time or money and neither gave it a second thought. They spent an entire weekend devoted to creating last memories with her, building a snowman in her front yard as she watched from inside with her oxygen and cane until she couldn’t contain herself anymore and ran out in socks to have a picture taken with them and the now famous snowman. They baked Christmas cookies and threw pieces of dough at each other until she joined in laughing. When they had to say their final good-byes, both were incredibly strong. « Continue reading »
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She is sitting on my lap as we gaze into the night sky. This may be the last year she will be willing to do that. She’s growing up so fast and pretty soon snuggling with Daddy will be embarrassing rather than comforting. She lays her head against my chest and I smile. Above us, cascading explosions of light and color brighten the darkness. I glance down at her wonder filled face. She doesn’t notice me looking at her so I take a moment to drink in her innocent beauty. She is my little girl, my grown up baby. With every flash in the sky, pictures fill my mind of different times when I have looked at this precious face… « Continue reading »
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The hardest thing I’ve been through as a parent is to have to bury two of my children… It taught me to cherish life and love every moment that I have with my family. It taught me not to take my kids for granted because they could be taken from me with no warning. Every day is a blessing, treat it as such!
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When I was in my twenties, my gaze was always focused on the big things—finding the “perfect” partner, the “to-die-for” job, the “huge” book deal, or getting into the “best” graduate school. Little things didn’t matter much; they were unnecessary distractions that I treated as rounding errors. I either ignored them or focused on what came before or after. Looking back, I can see that how deeply I was affected by films and operas. I was always waiting for the sweeping climax that would bring resolution, on a grand scale, to my life. I was young and eager to fit together the largest pieces of the puzzle of life, foolishly believing that the remaining bits didn’t matter. « Continue reading »
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She started school this morning,
And she seemed so very small.
As I walked there beside her
In the Kindergarten hall.
And as she took her place beside
the others in the class,
I realized how all too soon
Those first few years can pass.
Remembering, I saw her as
She first learned how to walk.
The words that we alone made out
When she began to talk.
This little girl so much absorbed
In learning how to write.
It seems as though she must have grown
To girlhood overnight.
My eyes were blurred by hastily
I brushed the tears away
Lest by some word or sign of mine
I mar her first big day.
Oh how I longed to stay with her
And keep her by the hand
To lead her through the places
That she couldn’t understand.
And something closely kin to fear
Was mingled with my pride.
I knew she would no longer be
A baby by my side.
But she must have her chance to live,
To work her problems out,
The privilege to grow and learn
What life is all about.
And I must share my little girl
With friends and work and play;
She’s not a baby anymore —
She’s in Kindergarten today.
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1. Don’t spoil me. I know quit well that I shouldn’t have all that I ask for, I’m only testing you.
2. Don’t be afraid to be firm with me, I prefer it. It makes me feel more secure.
3. Don’t let me form bad habits, I have to rely on you to detect them in the early stages.
4. Don’t make me feel smaller than I am, It only makes me behave stupidly big.
5. Don’t correct me in front of people if you can help it.
6. Don’t make me feel that my mistakes are sins, it upsets my set of values.
7. Don’t be upset when I say “I hate you”, it’s not you I hate, but your power to hinder.
8. Don’t protect me from consequences, I need to learn the painful way sometimes.
9. Don’t nag, if you do I will need to protect myself by appearing deaf.
10. Don’t make rash promises, remember I feel badly let down when promises are broken.
11. Don’t tax my honesty too much, I am easily frightened into telling lies.
12. Don’t be inconsistent, that completely confuses me and makes me lose faith in you.
13. Don’t tell me my fears are silly, they are terribly real to me and you can do much to reassure me if you try to understand.
14. Don’t ever suggest that you are perfect or infallible. It gives me to great a shock when I discover that you are neither.
15. Don’t forget that I can’t thrive without lots of love and understanding, but I don’t need to tell you that, do I?
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