My mom called me at 4:20 today. Being in the library I let the call go to voicemail. Soon there was that little light on the phone that indicates there is a new voicemail. A certain nagging feeling made me check the message even though I usually leave voicemails unchecked for weeks at a time.
The message began with my mom saying, "Sumeera, I have some bad news." Immediately, the panic struck, I thought of my dad, my sister and my brother. I thought about my numerous cousins, many of them young and prone to accidents. And as my mind tends to do, I ran through every worst case scenario in that millisecond. I could feel my heart in the bottom of my feet.
But it wasn't anything like that. Instead, my mom told me that our neighbors house burned to the ground. And there was another type of sinking feeling. We knew that house well. For years, when my family went on our evening walks or even just stepped outside, we used to see it. It was a magnificent house with a wrap around deck, huge half circle staircase that led up to beautiful double doors. It had a little walkway the led up to the water and a perfectly manicured backyard. It was definitely one of my favorite houses and I often looked at it with longong, hoping to one day live in a house just like that.
But this house always seemed cursed. Over the years it would go on sale again and again. As other neighbors stayed in place, this house perpetually had a for sale sign. As soon as someone had moved in, they were moving out. My parents described the inside as glorious as the outside. It was perfectly decorated. The architecture was something to talk about. But still, no one stayed there for long.
When I talked ot my mom, the first thing I thought to ask was, "Were they crying?" My mom responded, "How can you cry when there are hundreds of people standing around you?" I can't imagine the grief you must feel to see almost all the things you have in this world gone in minutes like that. I can't imagine how invasive and exposed you must feel under that big sky as there are firefighters, reporters, policemen and neighbors standing all around and all you can see is your life crumbled before you. But my mom told me that eventually the tears did come, even the father broke down.
They had left something in the microwave as they ran out to CVS to pick up something. That one small choice. To have a snack. To have something heated up when they returned. Maybe they forgot that it was in the microwave. Maybe they just hit an extra zero when setting the time. Maybe they thought of something someone had said to them and they were distracted for a second. Maybe that choice will haunt them for the rest of their life.
It isn't fair.
It is a small moment. It is an honest mistake. It is a giant, giant regret. But it doens't matter. And that is all there is to it. Some days, that is all there is to it.
Please keep this family in your prayers and good thoughts. May God make this trial easy for them and make something beautiful be born from it. Ameen.