Thursday, August 30, 2012
Today has been such a difficult day. We are just a day or so from the one month ago burning of the farmhouse. I have, with great frustration, dealt with being overextended financially to demolish the house, dealt with an adjuster that I feel is trying to avoid payment, and have spent many days trying to control emotions that range from sadness and grief, to hope and gratitude.
I went to my quilt group this morning and experienced their kindness and support, but when my sister thoughtfully shared some pictures of the farm in its sweetness and peace, I broke into tears.
And then, I went to the farm to see the completion of the demolition. There is nothing more final than seeing the foundation of a building that lies in the dumpster just yards away. It isn’t nearly as interesting as an archeological dig. Strangely, it was hard to connect the concrete with the memory in my head that held a family, a house, and experiences by the hundreds.
So, what does one do in such circumstances? Well, I took some pictures, and then I cried a little, and then I had a little talk with God. He assured me that he was watching over my farm and that the trees would grow back. In fact, plants were coming up everywhere. Even the asparagus sent up shoots in its confusion. And he assured me that he would be with me as I made the decisions necessary for the next few months.
My bluebirds swooped across the grasses. I heard the quail as they called for the covey to congregate. And then I got in my car and came back to the city with plans in my head and the quiet certainty that God was going to walk with me very closely for a while.
Never, never, think you are alone in your conflicts. Sometimes the message God sends is sent through others. Accept every embrace as if it came from an angel.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
This summer I experienced the tragedy of losing my farmhouse to fire. Weeks later, I still grieve, but I also have an immense feeling of being “unpuffed.” An odd description, but perhaps you have felt that way as well.
There is a beautiful passage in Corinthians describing love – it is patient, it is kind; it is not boastful, it is not puffed up. But I think the human tendency is to be the latter – to be bit full of ourselves. Haven’t we all been at some pinnacle of success that fosters that feeling? We work hard for our families, love them greatly, and we finally achieve something to be boastful about. We have two kids, four cars and a canary and we’re pretty pleased with ourselves. We begin to get a little puffed up.
My concordance says the Greek word used means to “puff oneself out like bellows”. Another word would be arrogance. It describes being so full of oneself that we don't accept the help of others and we don't see the needs of others.
It seems that life’s flow usually brings an incident that slaps us with a little reality. Perhaps a job is lost, a child fails in college, or there is a loss of great magnitude. When that happens, we become very quickly “unpuffed,” and at first that feels like the very greatest of physical, emotional and spiritual deflation. We suddenly feel very small and very empty, and perhaps even a little beat up.
A few days after my loss, a good friend helped me put things in perspective. She told me the story of her prized car – one she was exceptionally proud of. One day, her daughters expressed pride as well, and she had to remind them that worldly things are only on loan to us. The same evening the car was stolen and she was the one who struggled to remember the loan. She urged me to remember that the farm house was also on loan.
I love my farm, and perhaps I will rebuild, but first I want to follow my friend’s example and put my attachment in perspective. It is on loan to me, and perhaps even distracts from real purpose in using my hands for others. Real love allows us to be aware of others and their needs and humble enough to accept help that others give to us when we are in need.
Monday, August 13, 2012
Well, I guess it’s about official. The insurance company will declare the house a full loss and we will begin the process of identifying what that included.
Of all the physical “things” I loved in the house, the quilts were at the top of the list. Somehow people on the scene seemed to know that. The firemen handed me two quilts, still smoking and wet, while they worked the fire.
I thought I’d lost the others, but the next morning I went back to see if I could get the most important one off the bed. I peered into the bedroom and saw a blackened quilt covered with mounds of fiberglass insulation and half the bedroom ceiling. It took three hours with a pitchfork to clear it off and eventually pull it off. What a hopeless mess.
On that first day, I wasn’t thinking of possible restorers. My mind had sprung a cog anyway. All I could think was to save quilts the old fashioned way – wash them. So I took them to the car wash, draped four quilts over the car and turned on the high pressure wash. At home, I soaked them in the bathtub overnight and then washed each one several times in the machine.
When dry, they still smelled like smoke and were badly stained. I gave them to the cleaner to try his magic this morning – a full eight days after the fire.
The story of the “number one” quilt is a sweet one. It was a cream, whole-cloth quilt that my mother and I started together. It was the first quilt I had ever marked and we put it into a small lap frame Mom had found at a quilt show. The big one confused her and she had given up on quilting.
We were able to get it stretched and she had wonderful ideas to quilt the leaves with green thread, the doves with blue, etc. A couple of weeks after she started the quilting, she passed away.
I was a mess for months after and to relieve the pain and grief, I taught myself to hand quilt on that same quilt, so I added my clumsy beginning stitches to her wrinkles and knots. After a zillion hours of that (it was a huge quilt) I admitted that I simply didn’t have the time to hand quilt and put the project into a bag.
A mouse took a bite or two.
It became a little jumbled.
But when I bought my longarm quilting machine, the whole-cloth was the first quilt stretched to quilt. I proceeded to learn through trial and error and when I pulled it off to bind it, I was in love with it. There couldn’t be more mistakes on a single quilt, but it represents my mother’s last stitches, my first hand quilting stitches, and the first of hundreds of quilts to follow.
When it comes home from the cleaners, that quilt will probably still be stained, but I will still love it and I can now add another phrase to the story - - that quilt survived the fire.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
On August 4, 2012, a Saturday evening, my beloved farmhouse caught fire and burned. I am still in shock and grieving as though it had been a family member. There is almost nothing to salvage, as the wind was high and the fire made quick work of the old lumber. I am digging through it this week and after the inspections are finished, I will need to have it demolished.
People have been loving, kind, and helpful and many others have suffered such a loss – some more serious than this in storms that have taken lives. All the stories shared with me include the same inexpressible sadness and feeling of loss. It is just heart wrenching to lose your home to any cause.
As you might expect, I’m trying to analyze the loss, but I guess I have matured, as I’m sure not questioning why God would allow this to happen or thinking it was all part of the great cosmic plan. Maybe the Mars landing by Curiosity this morning would fall in that arena, but not this. It was just one of those accidents that occur in life that hurts like hell and changes a person forever.
I don’t know if I will rebuild, but I will keep the farm. All the memories are still there, with or without a house. If I should rebuild, the new house will still be loved just as much as this one was. The sun will continue to rise over the pasture, the garden will still be eaten by grasshoppers in bad years, and I’ll complain about the deer thrashing my trees. New memories will be made and hopefully, my sons will continue to say they own a Kansas farm that has been in the family for five generations.