October 18, 2018
We attended a “pie party” with Eric and Becky, her parents, all their children but Josh on his mission. Each family brought a homemade pie. Now we’ve had our Thanksgiving desserts while we’re hungry enough to eat them!
While the young people played board games, we three mothers sat before a cheerful fire and talked, as women do, about everything. The conversation shifted to the terrible disaster in Paradise, CA. A whole town wiped out. More than fifty dead and over a thousand unaccounted for. The wild fires under the influence of a “Santa Ana” wind roaring from the south ate up forest at the rate of a football field a second, approaching so rapidly that people perished because they couldn’t escape.
Daughter-in-law Becky said she and the other nurses at the hospital she works for were discussing the small hospital in Paradise that suddenly had to be evacuated. Only one ambulance, so the staff drove patients in private cars over the one road in and out of the town. The fires raged on both sides. Tires melted, door parts melted, clothing caught fire when people had to abandon cars. It was as horrific an experience as I can even imagine. Heroism was common. Heartache was equally common.
Paradise is/was a tiny community in the Sierra Nevada foothills, a place many retirees found affordable because of the isolation. Paradise looks like Hell right now. But in time it will be reconstructed and people will be able to see the grasses and new trees grow through the ashes. Death and regeneration up close and personal.
That in a few years it will all come back to life and beauty is certain. But I wonder why people choose to live in such fire-prone places. I wonder and then recall that our home is built on a gravel and sand base very near to the Wasatch Fault. That base will liquify in an earthquake, and our homes will be destroyed or damaged. People live in “Tornado Alley” in the Midwest. Floods visit our rivers and coastlines regularly. I think there is no place in our land or any other that is disaster-proof.
But we make our living right here. Our families are here. We have ties to schools, churches, even to the workers in the grocery stores. Where would we move that is guaranteed to be safe from natural disasters? Yet, worse, even if we could find such a place, people can create disasters anywhere. In our own church building, a woman was locked in, practicing the organ. Someone knocked loudly and shouted at the door, but she ignored it. That someone must have been mentally ill because he picked up a large stone and shattered a classroom window. He then attacked the organist, squeezing her neck with his hands until she passed out.
Nowhere is safe. So how can we sleep at night with all these potential threats? Besides compartmenting bad things, we hope for the good. We cope when we can’t escape harm. And sometimes we die. The thing is, most people seem to think that death is the worst thing that can happen. Yet even an unpleasant death leads to release and to another, immortal life. Death is much harder on the survivors, actually, than on the departed. Of course, we value life and try to avoid suicide and other forms of self-inflicted death. Of course, we try to be safe when we drive and in our daily habits. Sometimes, in a theater seat, I look around for a seatbelt!
The answer to constant, inevitable danger is faith that struggle is worthwhile, the reason we’re on earth. Our reaction to what happens determines character—something that lasts beyond death. PMA