This year our Mother’s Day plans included church, brunch, naps, and steaks and key lime pie for dinner. Never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined that just 37 minutes before the stoke of Mother’s Day, all our plans would change, not just our Mother’s Day ones.
That’s the way tragedies usually happen though, right? You never think it’s going to “happen to you.”
Just before midnight on Saturday evening, we had a fire in our kitchen, started by a malfunction on the electrical system on our dish washer.
The Lord was watching out for us in so many ways that night. The Hubs and I were up later than usual since we had stayed up for a movie, and so by the time I got in the shower that night with a house full of sleeping boys, it was later than any of us are usually up. I stepped out of the shower, got dressed, and immediately started hearing the “beep beep beep” of the upstairs fire alarm. At first I thought it was a routine check, which our alarms occasionally do, but they quickly became more insistent, louder, and by the time I got into the hallway upstairs and started opening bedroom doors to check on kids, the alarms started sounding out the word, over and over again, “FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE.”
I smelled it before I saw it, flying down the stairs in my pajamas. And I knew we were in for the real deal emergency before I saw our kitchen in flames, because the reflection of the angry orange glow danced in our front windows, picture frames, and all sorts of objects in the front room of our home. As soon as I saw the kitchen, I turned and ran back upstairs, screaming my husband’s name.
I flung open our front door on my way back upstairs – that tidbit surprised me later, as I did it without consciously thinking about it. I grabbed my phone and was already dialing 911 as I scooped Rett out of his crib in the nursery. Meanwhile Peter helped the other boys safely down the stairs and out to the front lawn.
Even though what I described above happened in the space of 90 seconds or less, by the time the kids and I were outside, the house was filled with a cloud of white angry smoke. Peter went back in, grabbed our fire extinguisher, and was able to put out the kitchen fire very quickly. Those fire extinguishers are no joke – they work amazingly fast and effectively, especially on a contained fire like we had.
Emergency dispatch was most concerned that we stay far from the house because of the danger of smoke inhalation. Three minuets – 5 tops – and three firetrucks came screaming around the corner, along with the Fire Chief’s truck and at least one police vehicle.
Shortly after the firemen surveyed our situation, they called in the station’s hook and ladder truck (my boys, as scared as they were, sure didn’t mind seeing the Hook and Ladder pull up to the driveway!) The firemen had three main missions once they confirmed the flames were out: 1) do the best they could do get the smoke out of the house (they blew the house out with huge fans they brought in), 2) get the dishwasher culprit outside and the electricity and water turned off in the kitchen, and 3) test the whole house for carbon monoxide levels).
I learned a lot that night but here are a few things I wanted to share with you.
1. If you’ve ever doubted that you “had it in you” to do what needed to be done in an emergency to protect your family, especially your children, doubt no more. The Mama Bear and Papa Bear genes runs deep and powerful.You will have what it takes, and you will do exactly what you need to do. Pinky swear.
2. Make sure your house has good fire extinguishers well placed, and test your fire alarms to make sure they are in good working order. Do it today. It’ll never happen to you, until the moment it does. Preparation is priceless when it saves lives and property like it did for our family.
3. When the “stuff” we fill our lives and dreams and desires with is stripped away (or in our case, covered in a thick coat of ash and soot and saturated with smoke) it’s amazing how clearly the heart sees what is important. Faith, family, being together, good health. Those are the greatest gifts. Everything else is just that: stuff. Sometimes the greatest gift God gives us is the stripping away so we can see so crystal clearly.
As the firemen began wrapping up their work shortly before 1am, a firefighter sought me out on the driveway: “Ma’am, I know this is not how you imagined starting your Mother’s Day, but I just wanted to tell you, I’ve seen a lot of fires, and you are VERY blessed. This situation could have turned out MUCH worse. I know that Someone up there was looking out for you. Don’t forget that you are blessed.” And he pointed skyward and moved on.
Even from those first traumatic moments, I knew we were blessed. Here I was, standing barefoot and bra-less in my driveway at one in the morning, surrounded by pajama-clad, tousle-headed, wide-eyed little boys, with a husband on the front porch literally covered in soot and smoke. Everyone alive, safe, and healthy. The greatest gifts I could ever ask for.
This was the Mother’s Day I’ll never forget, that’s for sure!
From the bottom of my heart I wish all my mama readers a belated happy Mother’s Day! Love you all so much!
P.S. How Can You Help Us?
My husband and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and offers to help from friends and family. Y’all are the best and we’re so grateful! Our insurance company has been truly awesome so far, and work has already commenced on the cleaning of our home and the gutting and reconstruction of our first floor. We’ll be in interim housing for most of the summer as the house is under construction. Truly, our greatest need right now is for prayer support and verbal encouragement. My husband and I could use prayer that we see the blessings and not allow the stress and the burdens to steal our joy and perspective. Our children are dealing with some post-trauma issues, which is totally understandable after going through such a scary ordeal, so we ask for your prayers for their healing and comfort as well. THANK YOU!!!
[Note: the images used in this post are not actual pictures from our home. The only times I picked up my phone that night were to call 911, and to inform my parents that five smelly, barefoot, exhausted creatures would be arriving at their doorstep around 2:30 in the morning. :o) ]