From Gary: I had very strong thoughts about not visiting the burn site. I wanted to remember our home the way it was when we last saw it, as we closed the door behind us for the last time. Looking back on my life, no “last time” ever stands out as significant. Everything is fine and normal, no sign of impending disaster. It’s not like the movies where there is some eerily prophetic glimpse about what is to occur.
Wanting to not see a dead body comes from having to see my grandfather’s body right after he had a heart attack. I didn’t need to see that, because now when I remember him, (the neatly dressed gentleman who always had a smile and sometimes a bunny for easter) I see this gruesome deathbed scene.
So I am against wakes. And funerals. I’ll come to the reception afterwards, but funerals IMHO provoke torture. People are fragile and gentle. Why decide to absorb pain at any moment when you can avoid it? Why deliberately hit your thumb with a hammer when you can walk along the beach instead?
Melissa wanted ‘closure’. One of the lessons I have learned from my “on the job” training of being a husband, is that you just go along with whatever. Melissa wanted to go to the burn site. I didn’t want her to go alone. So I went to the store, bought two bouquets of yellow roses (one for Melissa, one to leave at the burn site) and drove her up in our rugged Toyota FJ. I’ll let you read her account of what happened next:
Well, we did it. We went up and saw the burn site. This is something that’s been hanging over my head for 2 months. I thought I could go see the property as soon as we got back to Kelowna, but for over a month I’ve conveniently found one excuse after another not to go up there. Every single time I would think about going up, my stomach would turn and I would get such a sickening feeling. I didn’t think I was going to be strong enough to go there. Gary had no intentions of ever seeing it. In fact, he had someone drive him up twice to get something from the barn and he just closed his eyes as they drove past it. I asked around and it was unanimous, everyone else said they would go up if it were their house. I knew in my gut it was the right thing to do, but I was so affraid of the pain it could cause to see it in person.
This morning I finally woke up and didn’t have a gross feeling about it. I scheduled it. I was ready! So Gary decided to go with me, even though he didn’t want to go, he felt he needed to be there for me. I’m so glad we did it together.
As we started to make our way up the hill, I started to get sick. He pulled over to unlock the gate and I literally almost vomited right in the car. I’ve never in my life been upset about something enough to make me feel that sick. Then I saw the chimney and thought maybe this was a mistake.
We drove a little farther and saw the empty space that once occupied our home. It was so strange. Then we got out of the car and started to walk toward the site. I walked up the front steps and looked over the top to see a big giant pile of ash. At that moment it felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. All my anxiety just released itself from my body and I could see that our home was no longer there. It was gone and in that moment I could finally start to move on! ahhhhhhhh
I couldn’t stop there. I just had to walk over every room. We searched for salvageable things, something missed by the fire, anything. We couldn’t believe how every single piece was burned. At one point I looked down and said “OH MY GOSH I’M STANDING ON MY CAR!!” Then shortly after that we started to find pans and pot handles, the stove burners, the eliptical, a washer, picture frames, an old camera I found when I was in college, one of the kid’s trikes. All of it was ruined, but searching for things made it less sad. It was like a hunt for something we could create something new out of.
Then we headed to our safe and opened a box of things that weren’t in the fire. I found my wedding jewlery, rings from high school, my baby footprints, my first hair cut, my mom’s wrist band she wore in the hospital when I was born, all the stuff from Wesley and Willow when they were in the NICU, my old college ID’s, my diploma, our wedding invitation, our one and only family holiday card we sent out, Gary’s childhood report cards and photos, my old ohio driver’s license …. so many things that we are grateful to have.
This turned out to be something we both really needed. I was terrified to do it, but so glad we did. I am at a much better place now and I feel I accomplished something. I faced a fear that I didn’t want to face and it turned out much better than expected. Thanks for all your support before we headed up there. We appreciate all of you.