On the morning of June 27, we had a lovely second home in the beautiful, grassy valley of New Harmony.
By the afternoon, we didn’t.
A wind-driven wildfire exploded up a tinder-dry gully, jumped up to the rim where our house sat and ignited a 100-foot high inferno that burned our place to the ground in 90 minutes.
There was nothing left. Nothing.
It must have melted the pot-bellied stove and the refrigerator and washer and dryer, because there was literally nothing left but a shallow mound of powdery ash. Our home of 20 years and every keepsake in it had been cremated.
We don’t share this for the sake of sympathy. We share it because it re-taught us a lesson that we all have to be reminded of once in a while.
It is a lesson about really matters.
No one died. No one was hurt or injured. No one was homeless.
Just a few days before the fire, our son and daughter in law and their four children had been staying there. If the fire had come while they were sleeping as fast as it did on Wednesday, perhaps they wouldn’t have gotten out.
If the fire had jumped to the opposite side of the wash instead of to our side, it would have burned several homes with children living in them.
In the days since the fire, we have grieved for the things we lost, but we have counted our blessings for what we didn’t lose. And the second list is much longer and more impressive than the first.
We loved that beautiful little log cabin for its views of the Five Fingers of Kolob and the morning and evening hues of its tall-grass fields; for the restful rocking chairs and swing on the wide porch that encircled it on three sides; for the giant, 100-year-old cottonwoods that shaded it; and for the hiking and horse riding and countless other family memories that went with it. We loved the old, irreplaceable Navajo rugs and exquisite mountain man and Indian carvings we thought were safe there.
We will miss them all.
Even more so, we will miss the records, baby pictures, journals and wedding scrapbooks that one of our sons and his family had stored there. They feel like their past has been all but wiped out.
But in our better moments, we are beginning to understand that even the poignancy of these memories is a blessing. They are memories that we will always have and they are memories that can be re-created. They are memories that we did not appreciate enough until they were taken away. They were things we took for granted, but don’t any more.
What matters is our families, our children, our relationships, our friends and our love. What matters is our perspective about what is eternal and what is temporary. What matters is our faith and our values.
What matters is what we didn’t lose, and actually never can, unless we throw it away.