When a young child dies, we are advised not to tell the parents we know how they feel because the depth of their anguish is something we can’t really imagine. I do know how they feel, if not for the months and years to come, at least for that crushing moment when they realize their child is gone.
I have always had a hard time talking about the day thirty-five years ago when my sister’s home, next door to mine, was consumed by fire. My sister was gone somewhere, as was my father who lived on the other side of me. In my own home, there was a lot of confusion because relatives were there with a new baby and my father-in-law had also shown up unannounced.
In the midst of all that confusion, my sister returned to her home and found it in flames. At that point, we immediately began to search for our six-year-old son. We could not locate him. My sister never locked her door and our little boy habitually ran in and out of all three houses lined up on our street as if they were all his own. We immediately feared he was in the burning house.
My husband and my sister’s husband risked their lives trying to get inside but could not.
By the time the fire departments of several communities and around a hundred spectators surrounded the burning home, we knew our son was inside; because if he was not, he surely would have been drawn to all that commotion.
I stood there with icy heart slowly giving my beloved child over to God. I kept my other son near me as people kept trying to get me to leave the scene so I would not see my baby when they brought him out. I was assured that he would not have suffered, that he would have been overcome by smoke before feeling any pain.
In my mind I asked my Mother, who had passed away several years earlier, to take care of him in heaven.
Finally the fire was out, having burned at least an hour. It had completely destroyed the inside of the brick two-story house.
The men of our local fire department entered the structure to search for our little boy’s body as the assisting fire departments began to pack up their gear. I remained adamant that I would not leave until they brought my child out of the house.
And then the puzzled firemen came out of the house. They had found no sign of our son in the house.
My heart surged. But then, I thought, “They must have missed him. He is so small.” I did not believe he could truly be alive, but finally I went back into my house.
A few minutes later, one of the firemen came to the door holding my little boy by the collar of his jacket. He had been found at a nearby construction site, in the ditch dug for the footer, his head on his knees and the little plaid jacket I had sewn for him drawn over his head. He had been in the house when it was burning and, frightened, had run away to hide.
I did not let him out of my sight for the next three days, even bringing him into my bed to sleep. I could not put him in his own bed because I awakened countless times needing to reassure myself he was alive. I knew I was the recipient of a miracle.
Had God not saved that little boy from the fire, there are three beautiful, smart children that would never have been born. I thank God for my son’s life and for the grandchildren he fathered. I know I am the most fortunate and blessed of all mothers.