Part of what I do involves helping people recognize and move through emotional pain in their lives. My husband has always been what I would term a “carpet sweeper”. “You just have to suck it up and get over it,” he would say.
That Monday morning, I received a text from my best friend. Alden said he was awakened in the night and felt strongly he was to pray for you. Which he did! Just checking to see how you’re doing! My forehead furrowed as I wondered, but I responded: Well I was awake half the night thinking about our bathroom renos and the fundraising banquet but other than that everything is great! Something must be going on in the spiritual realm. Thank him for standing in the gap!
Nothing could’ve prepared me for what was about to happen.
Tuesday evening was pleasant. We had enjoyed a glass of wine together when I arrived home from the Center, ate supper, and spoke about the day’s events. We went to bed between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m.
At 11:40, I awoke to the howling of an intense wind that had been forecasted. Lawrence had spent the day “battening down the hatches” in the yard. We live on a farm. This time of year, it is normal for farmers to burn bush piles and field straw in preparation of next year’s crop. Sometimes you can see the bush piles smoldering weeks later, only to relight after a brisk wind. The wind that night was more than just brisk. It was clocking at more than 120 km.
I just happened to look out the window and saw a wall of flames across the road about half a mile away. “Oh my God, there’s a fire!” I yelled. I called 911, only to hear a recording that all lines were busy. Lawrence got up, took one look and said, “Grab your stuff and get out!” I called two homes of neighbors, one of which happens to be Lawrence’s cousin Brian and his wife Maureen, who groggily answered the phone to the warning, “Get up and get out of your house! There’s a fire and it’s coming fast!” I took another look as I ran upstairs. The flames were higher and brighter, as they licked at the darkness. They were hungry.
What do you take when you think your house is about to burn down? I threw on some jeans, a hoodie, flip flops, and grabbed my phone, ipad which contains family photos, medication, and chargers.
We drove out of the yard and turned to the east. Brian and Maureen were now safe in their truck at the end of their lane a quarter of a mile away. We pulled up beside them. By now, we could see that the fire was going to miss our house, but it was quickly moving east. Another neighbor was right in it’s path. “What’s their number?” we screamed. None of us knew it. As we drove back to our house to get the number, Lawrence was driving slow. “Hurry up!” I screamed at him. “What are you waiting for!”
The glow of the flames was incredibly eerie as they leapt and continued licking at what they wanted to devour.
I jumped out of the truck, running inside to look for the neighbor’s number. I didn’t have my glasses on and I kept getting someone else’s answering machine. We would have to drive and warn them.
I ran out of the house, only to find Lawrence collapsed at the side of the truck. Brian and Maureen had just followed us into the yard. “Lawrence is collapsed!” I screamed. They both rushed to his side. Maureen has medical experience and said, “Don’t touch him!” as she felt for a pulse. “Start CPR!” she screamed. Brian started CPR as I tried 911 again. The operator calmly, firmly, and quickly gave instruction. She had to speak loudly. The wind was so intense, you could hardly hear her. Brian was tiring. I took over. “Put me on speakerphone!” she said. My arms and hands were pumping his chest as she yelled, “One! Two! Three! Four!” The wind howled, blowing leaves and grit, feeding the glow of the fire across the road. “The ambulance will be there any minute! Just keep going!”
“Say it with me!” she said, as I started screaming with each pump, “One!, Two!, Three! Four!”
The RCMP arrived within a few minutes and took over as we stood watching in horror. “You can do this Lawrence!” I screamed. “Hang in there buddy!” Brian yelled.
“Melony…” one of the officers said. I turned around. I knew this man. He is a Christian.
The ambulance arrived. They administered the paddles, trying to shock his heart back into rhythm. They loaded him into the ambulance, asking if he was on any medication. “Yes!” I ran quickly into the house to retrieve it. The officer followed me. As I ran to get Lawrence’s meds, I could hear him praying…
Quickly, I ran back to the ambulance, asking if I could go with Lawrence. “Yes, but you will have to ride in the front.” Sitting there for what seemed an eternity, and getting increasingly frustrated, one paramedic said, “I’m an advanced care paramedic. Whatever can be done at the hospital, I can do here. I want you to know, that’s why we aren’t moving yet.” I took a deep breath, hoping beyond hope that there was a chance that Lawrence would be ok and we would be talking about the night’s events while we drank coffee in a few days…
Finally, the ambulance started moving. Fast. The wind tossed it around like a toy as we drove the ten miles to the hospital. As the paramedic worked on him, I kept looking back at Lawrence as I fumbled with my phone, desperately trying to reach all our children.
Halfway there, the paramedic said to the driver, “You can downgrade.” In my heart, I instantly knew what those words meant, but my mind still hoped. I looked back. “He’s gone…” he said.
The days following have been like a bad nightmare that we wish we would wake up from. We have a blended family. Lawrence’s children loved and respected him passionately, and even though my children weren’t of his blood, they loved him as though he was their own father… Me? My heart beats so fast at times it feels as though it’s coming out of my chest. And I waken completely startled throughout each night. I have moved through a lot of emotional pain in my life and I thought it would’ve prepared me for this. It hasn’t. But God is present and has shown me signs of His presence:
The text from my friend
The RCMP officer that prayed that night. He also prayed for the family as we sat with Lawrence’s body in the hospital afterward.
Praying together as a family when we went to view his body in the funeral home. It was powerful.
A one-hundred-year-old tree uprooted in our yard that night that was in a protected area. The wind didn’t just break off limbs, it totally uprooted it.
The doctor had determined that Lawrence died right here at the end of our sidewalk and not in the ambulance. He was wearing his fitbit that night. A couple of days later, I prepared what my heart would feel as I synced it to his ipad. And when I checked, it was clear that he died at 12:16 a.m. I hadn’t shared this information yet with anyone until his eldest grandson, Justin Lawrence, asked me what time he died. I was puzzled as to why he would want to know that. My eyes and my heart stretched as he said he heard a loud bang on the side of his house that night. He awoke and looked at his clock. It was 12:16 a.m.
Even though we all see God in this, it doesn’t mean that it hurts any less. We all see him everywhere, and my heart feels a pain I never thought imaginable as I look at the spot where he died and watch the dogs search for him…
But Lawrence isn’t lost. He is with the Lord. And I pray that through all of this, our family’s hearts continue searching for the love and comfort only the Lord can provide.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you cannot love pain out of someone. You can walk beside them as they go through it, but you cannot take it from them.
I’m sorry my love… We can’t just “suck it up and get over it.” You are worth it. Every. Single. Tear. And the flame of love that I have for you will continue to burn brightly as the smoke from the pain slowly wafts its way up to the Lord as a sacrificial aroma.