As much as I'm looking forward to this trip to Philadelphia, there is a dread that comes over me every time I leave home. Three times in my life, I have returned to ashes. The first when I was 9, then when I was 17, then when I was 26. All were unrelated fires.
The first time, we were headed across the mountain to church. Mama was a tiny woman and her wedding rings were too large. She kept meaning to get them resized; instead, she put them in the bathroom closet inside the sewing box. Periodically, I would steal into the room and and try them on, carefully replacing them if I heard her coming. That morning in June, as we got dressed for church, I again tried on her rings and thought I would ask her if I could wear them. I immediately dismissed the idea as totally foolish. There was no way she would let me wear them.
When we returned late that afternoon, I was lying down in the backseat, tired after church, visiting the friends, going to the zoo. As we topped the last hill, Daddy said, "Oh God," and swerved. I was afraid to look, afraid of what could cause him to moan these words. When I did, there was flue standing where our house had been. In the days before cell phones, no one could contact us so family members were waiting. I'll never forget the smell and I'll never forget Mama going through the ashes for days trying to find her wedding rings.
Each time, I had a similar experience--something I wanted to take but didn't. It always makes me uneasy, though I dearly love to travel. The loss of those homes has left me with issues of hoarding, of fear of facing reality, of all kinds of phobias and neuroses. When I tell my friend, Carol in Philly, about these things, she chides me--sometimes gently, sometimes harshly.
"Look around," she says, "Every body's messed up!"
Sometimes that's a comfort; sometimes not. But it is true. We're all in this boat together, sister, brother. Lord be gracious, and let us provide comfort to one another as best we can. Lord, care for my loved ones, and my home, for I am so grateful for all.