When the call came in, my heart dropped.
Up to that point, it couldn’t have been a better day; the sun beaming through the sunroof of the car, no traffic on Interstate 287. I would be home within an hour, then my dog Bono and I would take our afternoon walk – the perfect ending of my day. Or so I thought.
A voice on the other end of the line that I didn’t recognize asked me questions that led me to panic.
“Is this Phyllis Everette?”
“Of Killdeer Drive?”
“Yes!” I followed with a shout, “Who wants to know?”
“Well, I am William Randall, Hackettstown State Trooper.”
I never knew my heart could accelerate at such a fast pace. I am always in mommy mode, so my next question naturally was, “Where are my children?”
“Calm down,” Trooper Randall instructed me with a compassionate, calming voice. “It’s not your children that I am calling about. Your home is on fire!”
“My home is on fire! Is my dog Bono safe?” Yes, Trooper Randall assured me, adding that everything was under control but to drive safely and get there as soon as I could. That drive to my home seemed like the longest I had ever made. I replayed the sequence of events in the morning prior to my leaving the house. I questioned myself. Did I turn off the coffee maker? Did I unplug the curling iron? Had I caused this fire in my home?
When I finally arrived on my street, I had to park far way. There were three separate fire units at the scene. I got out of the car and I could see my daughters’ looks of despair as I drew near. They didn’t have to say a word. I could feel as well as see in their faces that this was bad.
I walked down the block and arrived at the front of my house. The only thing I could see was the charred black frame with no walls. My roof had a giant hole in it.
Everything that I had owned, earned or bought was gone.
The Fire Marshall approached me and let me know that he had conducted an investigation. It appears that faulty electrical wiring in the walls of the master bedroom caused the fire. From then on, it seemed as though everything moved in slow motion. It was so surreal. “How do I put this all in perspective”?” I wondered.
Within the last 18 months, I have ended a long-term relationship, survived my son having major surgery to his pancreas, lost my 36-year-old niece and been unemployed the past five months. Now my house was gone.
We all know you can’t make this stuff up. I have read about house fires in the newspaper and seen them on the TV, but I never gave it a second thought. I would always say, “Oh, that’s terrible” or “What a shame,” but I never thought it could happen to me. No, not me. No, No, No! The voices in my head were shouting. God knows I need a break. I am a good person. My humanitarian efforts are endless and I spread love everywhere I go. But we all know that doesn’t matter and trials land in our laps every day. We have to suck it up and deal with it.
“How do I put this all in perspective”?” I wondered.
As I sat in my car searching for answers, I reflected on an old saying: “There’s No U-Haul behind a hearse.” At this juncture in my life, I now understood the true meaning of that saying. The reason hearses aren’t equipped with trailer hitches is because you can’t take anything with you. Whatever material gain we get in this life, whatever we earn, accumulate, hoard and store is no longer ours once we are gone.
At that very moment, I realized I couldn’t worry about things that aren’t going to mean much when all is said and done. What are important to me are my children and grandchildren; making sure they are well mothered and that I leave them knowing that they are “sons of light” and “daughters of the day.” This is the most important legacy I want them to be left with.
When I do depart from this place, what I want trailing my hearse is a line – not just an ordinary line, but a long line of cars full of people! Stretching for miles driving me to my final resting place. I want these people in the cars to be people who I have touched with love and kindness in one way or another. An awakening took place at that moment while sitting in front of my burned home. My wondering, “Why Me?” shifted and a bigger purpose came into focus. I realized that investing in others’ lives is the only legacy that is important. People last forever, things don’t.
I leave my readers with these questions: What is your legacy? What would you like to leave behind for future generations? How does your presence help them to know that they are loved and valuable, just like my “sons of light” and “daughters of the day”?