Life, A Precious Gift
(Excerpt taken from my book - The Age of Wonderful Nonsense)
"They say April showers bring May flowers – but whoever ‘they’ are never told us what those showers would consist of. On Friday, April 18th, 2008, just weeks before my High School graduation, showers of ash presented a gloomy May scarce of any flowers.
“Jones, I need you to come here a minute…” were the burning words Ted Persell, my varsity baseball coach, shouted from across the diamond.
Those words would affect my immediate future – resulting in that urgent ‘minute’ he requested to feel as though it were an eternity. Tired and winded from running sprints (running was not my strong suit), I jogged across that perfectly trimmed diamond only to find a look of desperation on his face.
It’s interesting how one interaction with another human can have a profound effect on the rest of our lives. Though I’m not entirely sure he was prepared to do so, the next words he spoke changed my life forever.
I remember him looking me dead in the eyes with a new, almost rare compassion and whispered, “Your house is on fire, you need to get home as quickly as you can…”
He went on speaking, but I couldn’t make out the words. It was as if my entire world paused after he said those first words. It was a surreal feeling. There I was, just minutes before, running sprints solely absorbed by my own exhaustion – only to be emotionally and physically weakened by the thought of what the events ensuing would mean for my family and me.
I arrived at my house, barefoot, and was tackled by a firefighter after running onto my lawn attempting to race inside our burning home and pull out any pictures or prized possessions I could. I was the first person from my immediate family on the scene, and I remember laying on my front lawn watching it burn feeling the most helpless I had ever felt.
My mother was my first phone call. The silence on the other end of the phone as I relayed to her the events that were currently burning our life apart is something I will never forget. She always had a unique way of comforting us children, reminding us to love one another and not to be afraid because God has a plan.
That moment was the very first time my mother was silent as if her world had been shattered. She arrived, with my brother and sister, shortly after that. I’ll never forget her face as she looked up at the home, and life, her and my father had provided for us still up in flames.
From watching firefighters throw our prized possessions into a large dumpster, to seeing my mother in utter disbelief as she cried out to my Dad on the phone, and then hearing the sobbing of my brother and sister – you could say it was the hardest, most emotional day of my life.
Because my father worked hours away, he wasn’t on scene to answer pressing questions from fire captains, police officers, insurance salespeople, and anyone else claiming they were there to help. So, that left me to be the man in charge.
It’s still a blur to this day, but in that moment I was forced to grow up a lot faster than I intended. Answering questions I had no idea how to answer, from people who I had never even met, was what I found myself doing for the next few hours.
To this day, I couldn’t tell you if I said the right things or acted appropriately, but I guess that part doesn’t matter. I was a senior in High School at the time, what did I know anyway? Or at least I’m sure that’s what they thought. The only thing I can tell you is that this day was one of the hardest experiences of my life.
Though the fire was unable to bring our entire foundation to the ground, the smoke on the inside would prove to be enough to cloud our world from that day forward.
As my loving sister would say, “the clues of our home facing deterioration internally could not be seen by a jogger or dog walker casually passing by…the gate, outlining the perimeter of our home, only gave away that something wasn’t right; but the darkened glass windows shown a mere glimpse that something was broken and burned from a heat that damaged the soul of our home…”
Such is true about people too. Life seems all but normal on the outside, but little do they know an internal deterioration is burning us apart, piece by piece.
We call out for help, only to be told to wait it out – the flames will soon stop burning. In turn, we build gates around our homes and hearts for fear of people entering and discovering our internally broken souls. The darkened windows are the only way to know, that looking into someone’s eyes can reveal the unknown.
Though the fire served as a direct avenue to pain, it was this revelation that changed the way I view the people I interact with today. It was on this day when I decided to never be a surface friend to anyone who came in my life. I vowed to know people on a much deeper level because you never know when that person will vanish from your world – leaving you lost, broken, and wishing you had said more.
The Fire marks the day when my family and I became closer than we’d ever been. I realized that possessions and material objects could vanish at any moment, but the ones you love are always with you. I felt helpless, yet remarkably blessed that I still had the people in my life who I cherish the most.
We were forced to live in a hotel for a while, and no it wasn’t easy (by any means), but we did it together. We depended on each other and valued the fact that yes we lost our home and possessions, but we still had each other.
If you take anything from this post, please take this...
We all endure tragedy and hard days, but if you surround yourself with loving, caring people, you can overcome anything that life throws at you. Life is a precious gift given to us with the hope that we will love all the people and blessings it has to offer.
So today, on the 10 Year Anniversary of losing our home, I am reminded that my family is the most important part of my life. I love them more than words can describe and they are the reason I am who I am today. It has truly been a decade of restoration.
Thank you, Mom, Dad, Austin, and Jessica for being the one constant in my life that I can always count on. You give me hope that tomorrow will always be a better day than today.
That’s all I got, for now. Tell someone you love them today… because, why not?
Stay tuned, friends.