I WROTE THIS 18 YEARS AGO . . .
It pains me to imagine my family scampering in terror, in the dark, shouting and crying in fear. My 7 year old nephew kept crying and praying aloud not minding the people around him according to my sister. He was so scared but he kept on talking to God in his tears. Calling on God for the fire not to reach our house. He recounted with me how he cried so hard for his grandmother whom he thought was left in the flaming house. Not knowing that her grandmother, barefoot like him was frantically pulling the firemen’s hose to save her newly renovated house. The fire spread so rapidly that they were forced to eventually simply stare from afar, drained, helpless and dying inside. Lolo and lola arrived to get them. Ours was the last house to be burned. The 3-storey structure of the house remained amidst the charred things inside.
The many major losses and storms we went through this past years as a family and this time the burning of our house is something that really shakes me deeply.
As I looked at the debris, still feeling the heat of the charred house, the broken windows and all that was left in the little that my family had I found it so hard to find meaning and yet I know in faith that life moves on amidst the seeming helplessness and all the many darknesses that we went through as a family.
We do not know why things are unfolding this way. The morning I received the call I tried my best not to cry. I have never cried over the phone on hearing the many bad news that I received during the past years. Not even the suicide of a brother. I tried my best all those years to just be present to them as I listened. I would just cry and cry some more after we hung up. This time I wasn’t able to contain my own grief. I cried with them. I had to finally let go of the “strong stance” and just be with them as I am. I hung up feeling so powerless and I found it so hard to believe that here was another storm howling so strongly, when we had not yet recovered from the most recent ones.
I knew I cried with my family this time not just because of the fire but because of the feeling of the seeming endlessness of it all. It has been a long night for us all.
Inspite of losing everything except the car, I am immensely grateful that they were all safe, together with all our neighbors. Their old dog did not make it but Aira, the puppy, survived. Shivering with ashes all over his body. We lost all that connected us to our past as a family. My brother’s children lost also all their family photos that could have somehow remind them as they grow up that they, too, had a family of their own before their parents separated.
Truly there is a deeper loss beyond the charred things. A transition as in any other loss in life, a transition so abrupt, so violent, so sad.
My family will begin anew gradually as they gather bits and pieces of their shattered selves. Especially my mother. Sometimes you get to ask yourself what’s behind all these seeming life’s cruelties. I am a strong believer though that God does not want any of His children to suffer needlessly.
Our good Lord has sustained me all these years and will continue to sustain me. The road is quite dark but as Fr. Kieran mentioned in his talk last Thursday, “It is dark and we cannot see but he is there.”
In His absence He is most present. The great paradox of our life.