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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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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I think summer is the by far the best time of the year! Not just because the weather is warm and the days long. I love it because my daughter is home all day long. Now, for some people that may not be exactly a good thing but I really believe it is a matter of perspective. In the grand scheme of things, we have these children for such a short time. I want to enjoy and appreciate every moment. Sometimes that means playing a video game I don’t necessarily want to play. Sometimes it means watching a show I don’t necessarily want to watch. But if watching that show or playing that game gives me a moment where my daughter snuggles up close to me… I’ll take it every time. You see, I know and accept that there will come a day (all too soon) when she will be too old for snuggling and video games with dad. She will be talking on the phone and focused on her social life and that is how it should be I guess. I just don’t want to look back with any regrets… longing for a time when she wanted to be with me but I was too busy. Summer allows me this time more than ever and that is why it is my favorite time of the year!
One safety note that is just as applicable in summer as during the rest of the year. Our children will face more and greater risks/threats out there than ever before. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Luckily technology has provided a way to mitigate much of the risk to our children by helping us directly identify the exact individuals that should not be associated with them to begin with. Online background check sites (the good and reliable ones at least) can help you learn tons of information such as criminal records or even a quick nationwide sex offender registry check. There is a wealth of information you can access in a single report and it can be done online, anonymously and it is completely legal. Prices for the background check itself costs a minimum of $14.95 but can also be a bit higher depending how deep of a search you wish to perform. I use http://www.CompleteReviews.net to help me find the best possible background checks on the market today. They conduct in-depth testing on all the major background check providers and then recommend the best options. They will also answer any questions you might have related to background checks.
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When I was a kid, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.
On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite! « Continue reading »
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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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Being a parent is a life sentence, from the day your child is born until you leave this earth, you will never be free again! You are granted no reprieve when your child leaves home. You will worry about their future as long as you live, no matter how far away they are, physically or emotionally. « Continue reading »
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I was tempted to say, as usual, “Hurry up! Unhook your seat, let’s go! You’ll be late!” as we prepared to leave the car for Elijah’s gymnastics class. Truth was, we weren’t actually running late (surprising for the Harvey’s, I know!). I stood in the 14 degree weather at the open rear passenger door and watched him, wondering just what it was that caused no response from him, considering the lack of the usual repetative announcements regarding tardy arrival times by yours truly. « Continue reading »
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Last week, my Eli, 4, set about filling a jar full of water on the front walk. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was going to catch a rainbow. He thought about it, and it was the first sunny day in what had seemed like weeks. He spent the better part of the day working toward his goal, occasionally squinting into the sky. « 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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