There are a lot of adages and catchy phrases about home. Home is where the heart is, home sweet home, there's no place like home and love makes a house a home, just to name a few. But nothing can prepare you for how a home feels or what it means until it is gone.
Last week my sister, who is also my next door neighbor, lost her home to a fire. It just so happens that my husband and I were not home on the day it happened and heard the news via a phone call. It was very difficult not just to hear about but to deal with it from a distance. All I wanted to do was be there to give her a hug and tell her it would be okay.
I am not sure if things would have been different if we would have been home. Perhaps I would have just been coming home from work and spotted it sooner, or my husband would have noticed it before things got out of control, but we will never know. In any case the fire was too far gone before spotted and she lost everything.
When I was finally able to talk to her, she brought up some of the things she will miss the most. Things that she saved of our mothers, wedding pictures, baby pictures, computers full of information, Lake Emily records and other collectible items. These are the things that can not be replaced no matter what you do.
For now she is kind of in limbo. Staying in a small apartment, trying to figure out what to do next. Weather conditions will prevent anything at the site for a while so she will have time to figure it out and also time to think about her home.
Even though she will eventually have a new home, there will always be some things missing. Those family pictures on the walls, mom's washstand, bowl and pitcher set, the old dresser passed through the family for ages and even those rare silver dollars saved carefully in a glass jar.
I can't imagine the struggle she has ahead, only hope that I can help in some way. It will be a busy summer, filled with new hope as a new home goes up next door but also a sense of loss for what is gone. Things can be replaced but the feeling of 'home' will not be there for her for some time.
It is common for people to say things like "at least no one was hurt" or "you still have yourself, family, pet, etc" however it is not as much comfort as one might think. After all, like the sayings go, there is no place like home, that home, sweet, home. To lose it is not just tragic but heart-breaking. It is where your heart is and where you preserve all that is precious to you. The building can be replaced and the love returned but some very important possessions will be lost forever.