It was April 4, at 2:03 a.m. when I was awakened by the sound of sirens stopping in front of our house. For some reason, I knew something was wrong. I bounded out of bed, yelling to Laura and Ben, "Get up and get out. This is serious and we have to get out, quick!" I grabbed my robe and slipped my cold, bare feet into some fur-lined house shoes. As I ran toward the front door, I passed the chimney where the smell of smoke was very strong.I yelled back to Laura and Ben, "It smells like our house is on fire. Get out quick!"
I glanced outside from my front door and saw three fire engines in front of our house, four police cars, and the fire hose that was running down the north end of the street. I ran down the front steps, as I was looking from side to side, not knowing what to expect. Wow! It was cold—it seemed around 30 degrees but of course my blood still flows slowly (like my speech)! Laura came running out with the cat,. Smokey, and then she wanted to go get Max, the dog. We were both freezing, so she ran back inside to get our coats, leaving Smokey in the house.
As we ran across the street, my neighbor on the north side thought that it was our house, but looking closer, we realized i t was the house to the south of us. "There is an 82-year-old grandma who lives there," I hollered at the fireman. "Go, get Grandma out." He ran to the house and barged in trying to find Grandma. Thank the Lord, a neighbor who had noticed the fire from their window called 911 and alerted Grandma to come out. There was a sheriff who knocked at her door and rushed her out along with her grandson, who just "happened" to be staying with her that night.
Flames came roaring up 20 feet in the air from the roof of her house. "Oh, my God!" my neighbor yelled, "I just can't believe this." There were around five neighbors who had come out to see this sight. I was numbed with the awesome sight of this... once a lovely home ...being destroyed by fire in minutes. All sort of thoughts raced through mymind. First, I'm glad it's not my house. Then I thought, well, there isn't anything valuable there, except my pictures and my Bible. As the fire kept leaping into the air, I was rather concerned whether or not it would leap over to our house.
The firemen had tried to put out the fire from the roof, but as the fire chief described it, it was "spongy" which means that the firemen could fall through so they started on the inside gutting out the attic trying to put out the fire. The inferno destroyed half of her house.
I was so numb by what I saw, I wasn't thinking about Grandma. it dawned on me that she might be lonely and possibly going into shock, so I went down to the police car where they had taken her and her grandson. I had been over to her house several times to chat with her and taken her a loaf of bread to welcome her to our neighborhood, but other than that, 1 really had not become well acquainted with her. When I stuck my head in the car, she was white as a sheet and had this ashen look of shock on her face. My heart felt a stab of horror imagining what she was going through watching her house being destroyed by fire in just moments. I took her hands in mine and said, "Grandma, when you want, you can come to our house and stay warm until your family comes." She just grunted, "Whatever you think is best." I offered our house as their fire center to wait for the family to come.
As I lifted her in my arms, bracing her as she walked, Ben was helping on the other side. Looking down at her feet, I realized that she had nothing but socks on. I immediately took off my shoes and Ben helped her put them on. The only thing she said, was, "Oh, thank you! Thank you so very much!" We made it to the house, having to wade through the water from the fire truck. As we entered the house, I placed her on the couch. No sooner had she sat down, then I realized that her breathing was very unsteady. called the policeman to call the medic. I sat beside her with my arms around her and she started weeping and wailing! I sat and cried with her! I knew she was trying to tell me something, but I couldn't recognize what she was saying. Finally, I said, "Take a few deep breathes and start over so I can understand what you are saying." Then escaped the story about her husband who was burned in a fire five years ago. In her arms was her very special pet dachshund. However, she was asking for the other dog, Toasty, who was in the dog house, which had caught on fire. No one knew what condition the dog was in.
(Later, the fireman found Toasty had died in the fire.)
When the medics arrived, they inquired if she was presently taking medications. She said she was allergic to smoke. They put an oxygen mask on her and within about three minutes she began talking with the mask on. She told the story about her husband who was burned in a fire. She could not believe this was happening to her. His dog, Toasty, the one in the doghouse, was so very special to him and she had let him down by leaving his dog in the house. Then she told more of the story about her husband's death. He had been working with some electrical wiring and was burned very badly. He lived ten months in the hospital. Because his esophagus was burned from medication, which they had to give him. for his lungs, the doctors couldn't save him.
The firemen were coming in and out of our house when her family began arriving. It was a night that f will never forget! The one thing that Grandma kept repeating over and over again, was that I stopped and took off my warm shoes and Ben placed them on her feet. She told that story repeatedly to the different family members who came and went.
The family left around 11 a.m. the next morning after eating a small breakfast. Family members came in and thanked me profusely for what I had done. I kept responding, "You would have done it for me." They responded, "Yes, but you have done more."
Through this act of kindness, I thought, "I hope they will see Jesus in what I am doing." I acted knowing that this is what Jesus would have done, not out of "this is what I should be doing!"
"If you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." I gave no Bible study . . I handed out no piece of literature, I preached no sermon... I didn't discuss any type of religion . . had no prayer with her ... I read no Bible passages to her ... I just took off my warm shoes and put them on her feet!
"Religion that God our Father accepts as and faul tiess is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27, NIV).