31 December, 2012

Day Seven: The Fire

Written the week after the Waldo Canyon Fire:

It has been an interesting two weeks. I have gone from elation, jubilation, and joy to sobbing on the floor, crying out to God, knowing in my heart He is in control but my head not knowing what to hold onto.

Now, with our home safe and the future a bit more secure I come to reflect.

Two weeks ago was perfect. 80 friends and family gathered with D and I as we joined our lives together. A afternoon storm gave way to an ideal evening, with amazing weather. The food was divine, the conversation rich. I got to touch base with dear friends I had not seen since before DC. My boss from college was close in those days, being one of the women to stand beside me, and her presence there - I can't even articulate what it meant. And in the middle of that - a new family. D's family was there. His father, sisters, and his children. Three kids I am still getting to know, who I already love, who have been there for me as I've waited for news on my parent's home.

Getting home from Santa Fe the routine of "settling in" was broken Saturday afternoon by a blume of smoke over my sister's home in Cascade and a text message verifying the fire was close. A call from my mom and then the dreaded wait that so many know and hate. Another call - come now - and off to my parent's house I raced.

The house in chaos, people trying to figure out what to take. Unsure where to begin, where anything is. I started to grab photos, computer towers, my grandmother's recipe box. How do you explain this situation to a child - 9, 6, 3 years old? Waiting for the return of my father from his place of work, things hastily packed in wisdom, items his employers now treasure to have. 60+ years of business reduced to rubble and the community mourns with him the loss of what once was a COS icon.

Then waiting. I hate waiting.

Back to work - life goes on (not really) while my family - all 13 of them - sit in a hotel room waiting on news of their homes. I feel inept, scared, unsure and guilty that I have a home, that I am hanging photos and creating a place of rest for D and me while my family sits and waits for the outcome of most of what they own. Yes, it's a house - it's walls and doors and carpet and a location. But it's a home - with pictures, kids' drawings, family meals, memories. It's a place I rested my head since I was twelve, that until a week before I called my home.

Then a wind storm. A 60 MPH wind, catching the fire just right on the hottest day CO has ever seen and carrying it over ridges and dumping it on our doorstep. We watched, anxiously, while the flame overtook the hillside, confirmation that my father's place of employment is destroyed. We are unable to place anything in the dark night. The flames seemed to reach for miles - more and more people evacuated. How do you tackle something like that? How would they stop all of the northwest side of COS from going down? We can't place anything but try to anyway. Midnight - the flames continue. We know morning will bring answers - but are we ready for what we will learn?

In the night I dream of a charred community where children return to play, grow, live and thrive. Waking early I go to the TV, but no answers come.

Then come the images, broken information, pleas for time and the repeated realizion that contol is gone. I feel violated by people's refual to respect other's homes, to turn an image into a front page horror, to fly overhead and try to answer people's questions with hasty maps of broken communities.

A number - 346. A list of streets, ours not among them. A sigh of relief. Prayer that my sister's family will one day soon receive the same news. Yet we cannot return home. But the edge in our voices is gone. For the first time since Tuesday night when my dad and I had to prepare my mom and sister that there might not be a home to go back to, there is a sense of peace and I breathe.

I breathe and realize it's far from over. And that while we were lucky others were not and we must stand by those who lost it all.

Now, 14 days later, I can look at my left finger and let my marriage sink in. I take inventory of relationships and priorities and decisions. Like growth out of the ashes I let go of what held me down and realize what is important.

A dear friend of mine lost her grandmother right before my wedding and I have not been able to be there for her like I want to. The loss of her grandmother - almost two years since Bev's death - brings up emotion within me. I find myself mourning the things Bev never got to see. She never met D or his three kids, she didn't get to see my wedding, will never see who I become. I struggle if she would be proud of me, if she would understand. And so inpart in grieving for her, wanting her here, wishing to see her face one more time, I start to be able to reach out to my friend and mourn with her - realizing and knowing the same thoughts and struggles are with her too. Death where is your sting or victory? Not here for those of us who know we will see our loved ones again!

But where to go? How to rebuild? To move back, settle in, water my mom's garden and press on. To unpack the final things at my home, to live life with three kids - my new family - and struggle to become better than I am now.


Thank you for being there to celebrate, the kind words, well wishes and curiousity (the pictures ARE coming) as I finally joined my life to another. Being there to comfort, with words of encouragement, questions on our status, offers for help. For standing with us Tuesday night and last night with sighs of relief and words of joy.

And I know you will be there still as life (good and bad) comes our way. And I can only hope that I can repay your kindness in your time of joy and need, celebration and pain.

Thank you.

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© Amanda Lunday