The tragedy is all over the newscasts. On Christmas Eve, an upper-middle class Connecticut home went up in flames. Three little girls and their grandparents died in the fire. Only their mother/daughter and her boyfriend survived. As she tried to save her family, neighbors reported she screamed, “My entire life is in that house.” They’re saying the fire was caused by sparks from the yule log cinders which she and her boyfriend collected and deposited in a trash can outside the home. The firemen were unable to get there before the house was engulfed in flames because the house didn’t have working smoke detectors.
I imagine the family in front of the fire, singing carols, eating, laughing. I see the little girls’ excitement over Santa’s impending arrival. I feel the adults’ happiness and satisfaction over the girls’ anticipation. They kiss, go to sleep, and one human action later, their life is gone.
I see my time with him as a bizarre hole in the time continuum. It was something that had to happen to me so that I could see myself and some truths, but also for some other reasons that are not yet clear to me. I was never meant to know him for longer than I did. I am grateful that I was able to love even if it was for such a short time.
I’m inside that woman’s head now. She closes her eyes and concentrates. She goes back in time. She sees herself sitting close enough to the cinders so that she can reach into them. Without hesitation, she sticks her hand in over and over until it doesn’t burn anymore. She sees herself replacing the batteries in the smoke detectors. She clenches her fists, grinds her teeth, and shuts her eyes so hard that her head hurts. Then, someone forces her eyes open and she’s back in the present. She will do this for the rest of her life and will never allow herself to think of or remember anything else. This mental repetition will be the only thing that will keep her alive.
A life can change in one second as a result of a bad decision, intentional or not. To be alive is to make mistakes but we never expect them to be irreversible. It’s very hard to accept and if it has happened to you already you don’t ever want it to happen again.
If you have the chance to make things right, do it. It’s a priceless gift that most of us never get.