Atwater-Donnelly

Newsletter

JANUARY 2005
PAIN AND JOY

It's amazing how quickly a mundane task can turn to misfortune or disaster.

Too fast, too close, too late: three things I remember each time I climb behind a wheel now. When the van finally stopped in the breakdown lane, we looked at each other, half expecting to see ghosts, or angels. But after a moment, when we realized that it was over, that there wouldn't be a second collision, and that we were meant to live another day, we waited briefly for our nerves to calm and for someone to pull over. No one did. And when she stepped out to inspect the outside and underside of the vehicle, for a moment I imagined a car slamming into her. I yelled to her but she couldn't hear me, and she was back in the van right away.

Their home had been standing for nearly 200 years, post and beam construction that slept six, until the toaster failed one afternoon. The fire whipped through the house, taking everything in its path, leaving a husk where a home once stood. Chestnut and pine and oak, so old, so dry, became a blazing inferno in the nine minutes it took between the 911 call and the arrival of the second wave of fire trucks, when firefighters could no longer get upstairs. The girls' bedroom, home to dozens of stuffed animals, was stripped bare. Even the bunk beds were gone. There was no furniture left in the living room except for sofa springs on the floor. The refrigerator was a melted pile of metal. Paintings and artwork from friends were plucked from the nails on the walls and reduced to ashes. Only the family escaped harm.

We lost our innocence that night on the highway, but thankfully kept our lives and everything in it, although a large dent above the rear wheel on the driver's side helps to remind us of the incident. We drove home in a different mood, grateful for our blessings, and keenly aware of our speed, the distance between cars, and when to brake.

In the hours, days and weeks that followed the house fire, several hundred people stepped forward with food, clothing, and household items. Neighbors cared for farm animals, and when an emergency trailer was brought on site to house the family, the community helped equip it with everything from bathroom towels to kitchen spices.

 Our lives and experiences are not much different than your own, and like you, we both share in grief and good fortune, often simultaneously. Kim captured my thoughts succinctly by adding, "In the midst of loss, we are forever changed. Not so much in the losing, but in the gaining. We've been touched by the love of our community--a much larger, deeper love than we could have imagined." And from her book, Tending To Grace, she writes, "Lots of pain in life. Lots more joy. You got to find a way to stand through both".

Written by Elwood J. Donnelly and Kimberly Newton Fusco
More information about Kim, including her novel, Tending To Grace,
can be found at www.kimberlynewtonfusco.com.


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