We woke with a chunk of the neighbor’s tree on our roof—
two branches the size of two trees, limbs like trunks,
snapped off, split, dead. No more leaves from these two.
That tree, the size of our house times two,
has been a looming accident waiting to happen.
The inside now scissored in two.
The tree guys couldn’t get to our roof because their truck
didn’t fit in our driveway. The wind blew off one of the limbs
during the day, busting the neighbor’s fence.
Mary seemed content to spend the day in hiding,
Fannie stayed alert, on edge from the storms,
with consistent rumbling barking and enough outbursts
to upset us all. I’d been through Hurricane Fran,
snapping trees and trunks, wrenching out roots,
could recognize the hurricane force winds. Sirens
blared throughout the night. I didn’t know houses
had been hit by lightning though till morning. Fannie and I went out,
eerie as it was in the broken tree limb covered streets,
limbs still crashing down. We walked in the street. The sun rained
its wet sweat down on us as the trees swooned their losses.
I walked through the pungent smells of a campfire dowsed
with fire hoses to the neighbor’s house. ‘She’ll be right back,’
one of the guys from the upstairs duplex said as his feet
crunched the glass shards, walking up the ash covered steps.
‘Do you live here?’
‘Yea, I did. We weren’t home when it happened.’
‘I’m so sorry…’ what do you say…? ‘No one hurt?’
‘No…our two cats…the fireman saved our dog with CPR…’
‘Oh gosh…I’m so sorry…about the cats.’
Sagging ceiling, dripping water, wet floor, dark chamber
of fire’s destruction. Thick wet ashes squished, I walked
into what had been a family’s home just hours earlier.
‘That’s Travis’s,’ the young man spoke up as I laid a thick sock
over the step in the sunlight. ‘His clothes were tossed everywhere.
Ours were okay…’
‘It can be washed…’ what could I say? Where was its mate,
and the mates to the two left shoes? I continued to clear glass and
the ripped off roof shingles from the porch. What else could I do?
‘Thank you,’ the young man’s mother said.
‘I’m so sorry about the cats,’ I said. She held a trash bag bundle in her arms,
gestured it toward me. I thought of the cats chasing butterflies
in one of heaven’s lush green meadows. She nodded.
The duplex owner spoke from the sidewalk, ‘It was a great house. I’m
going to miss it.’
‘I’m her daughter,’ a young woman stood, speaking through her grief.
‘Ashes to beauty…’ I whispered to her, not sure if I should.
‘That’s what He does, turns ashes to beauty and He will
do it with this.’ Her brave expression softened then. She came into my
arms and wept.
‘Get her number,’ her mother said walking up.
The daughter texted my number into her phone. We’d spoken
earlier, the mother and I, after seeing her ash covered face,
arms and clothing as she was salvaging what she could
when I passed. I’d stopped. Offered to help. ‘I want the news
to leave me alone, they’re hovering here because of my misfortune,’
she’d cried. Now she was back, walking up the steps for the last time.
‘We have to leave, it’s going to cave. It’s not safe.’
‘We’re going to miss this neighborhood,’ shaking his head, her father
spoke his sorrow as the family walked away from the shell of a house,
so filled with life only hours earlier.
The mother and daughter are indelibly connected to me now,
through the ashes. I woke in the night praying for them.
What else could I do…?
The tree cutters said it was the toughest job they’ve ever had getting
those limbs off our roof. Mary is still in the basement what with all the
chainsawing. Fannie remains alert, rumbling a stomach full of hungry
barks and growls.
…We may never see the result of our prayers, but God will.
“Work, for the night is coming,
work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest will come sure and soon.”
~~Anna Louisa Walker Coghill.
Aw Debs – I’m so sorry for the family that lost their home and their pets – GOD gave you a divine appointment; what a privilege!! I’m sorry about your roof too; did the branches put a hole in the roof?
So glad you could stand in the gap for a neighbor Deb. Sometimes God feels free to just plop us down in the thick of it and you were to be there for them.
Side note: I used to be the guy people would call when trees or limbs went through or on people’s roofs. Storms and fires sure create trauma and God sure uses these times to get people’s attention.
It could have been so much worse. 💛
I took the top of a pine tree that was still 12″ thick out of a roof and it went down through a bunk bed (center of both beds) and was still sticking out of the roof 10 feet. 100 mph straight-line winds had hit and snapped off trees 30 feet up and blew them as far as 50′. Nobody was home at the time. trees hit all four sides of the house. Someday we will find out just how much God has watched over all of us, I’m convinced of that.
Such a visceral account, thank you for sharing… Ashes to beauty… That’s what we hope for 🙏🙏
He sure does, Gary. I love that. I’ll be praying for more “plopping”. 🙂
I have such great respect for all our heroes like you. And I know for certain, God is still using you to lift the burdens that go through people’s lives. ❤️ Thanks always for reading and writing. I’ve been busy with a manuscript and haven’t been around as much. I have to get over to your place for a visit! It’s always a joy!
Thank you, Morag. We surely do!💛
Yea, Gary, me too. Wow. That’s an amazing story. During Fran, I watched the trees in the forest around my little house in the woods bend all the way down to the earth. In the morning the house next store was demolished but mine was untouched. There was a big area that had been flattened leaving everything on either side standing like nothing happened. No way to get out of our road for a while. No water or power for weeks. Food ran out at the stores. Quite an experience.
Wow that would be quite an experience. I live in a very rural area so we have a house generator, shop generator and the lake is very close. Mostly because our handicapped daughter cannot cool down or heat up on her own very well.
Im glad you are working on manuscript with your time. My time will come for that as well. I dont blog in summers much but now and then sit down to write or photograph. Take care.
Thanks Gary, you too.
There are no perfect words in the face of disaster; rarely can we fix the problem with words and we certainly can’t turn back time. But! The love and care you expressed most certainly provided beauty for them in the midst of the ashes. And you cast the bread of hope and faith upon the waters, in the aftermath of that storm. With you I look forward to the accompanying promise being fulfilled: “after many days you will find it again” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). May that family experience hope and faith in Jesus, and his restoration, in response to your witness of word and deed!
Thank you for this beautiful message of wisdom and understanding. Your words are perfect!
No one can stand against nature and its force. Your words gently depict tragedy. To lose a home is devastating. There are no appropriate words of comfort. Time will once again move forward, the broken pieces will be swept away, and strength will be regained in new endeavors. My best wishes and lots of luck. 🙂
“The broken pieces will be swept away…strength regained in new endeavors”
Beautiful. And how many times have I seen this happen! Thank you! So wonderful to connect!
Thank you Deb. Stay strong. 🙂
Sorry for the typo! :/ Fixed it.
Spoken like a true writer. We just can’t let it go. Haha!
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