What I think when a neighbor loses everything

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As I write this it’s been less than a week since two very good friends of mine, who live just up the street from me, had their house burn down in the middle of the night. They salvaged one of their vehicles, the wife’s purse, a bathrobe and their two dogs. In short they lost just about everything as did several of their neighbors.

So now in the midst of dealing with multiple insurance companies, legal matters, getting lost ID and other cards from the government and lots and lots of people who love them and want to help, they are on the receiving end of the pain of loss.

Everyone experiences loss. We all lose friends and miss opportunities along the way. As a child my favorite toy gets broken or lost and as an adult my beautiful new car slowly decays till it’s time for a trade-in. The older you get the more you experience the loss of friends and family dying or slowly fading away into an Alzheimer’s induced fog. People move away and in spite of our best intentions the friendship slips through the cracks of our busy lives to be found no more.

Different types of loss carry their own kind of pain. The kind of loss that comes from death or violent destruction, whether something burns down or is blown down by a tornado hurts strikes very deeply into our hearts. It’s something most people spend a lot of their lives either hiding or running from.

It’s the pain of having your own mortality thrown right in your face.

This kind of loss strips away all the trivial things we surround ourselves with and allows us (forces us would probably be more accurate) to face the really significant issues of life. In so doing it can become our teacher and help us to reach a deeper understanding of ourselves and this life we’ve been given to live.

This is the true horror and beauty of loss. In one blow it takes from us that which we cherish while simultaneously showing us what the real essence of life is. Loss takes away the lie that things are significant and challenges us to remember what’s really important in life.

Loss is both terrible and beautiful and if I’m willing to learn from it can eventually help me to become a much better and wiser person. Yes, I’ll miss those old pictures or other heirlooms that I may have lost. But I’ll also be very unlikely to forget that life isn’t just about accumulating stuff. Stuff is fine, but in the end that is not what makes life worth living. No matter what I’ve lost if I’m alive then I can still love and to do good for the people in my life. The time and ability to do that are true gifts and they make life worth living.

I often think that our lives can be defined by loss and how we deal with it. Are we wise enough to be prepared mentally, financially, emotionally and spiritually? Or do we live in denial hoping the sword won’t fall all the while knowing that sooner or later it will?

If we stripped away the shallowness of our lives on our own perhaps loss wouldn’t be quite so shattering when it comes. If we could discipline ourselves to really major on what’s significant and not on what isn’t perhaps we’d have far less that could be taken away from us.

Because as many prisoners have said before only your body can be imprisoned not your soul. In the end your heart and soul are what counts the most. You can only lose your heart or soul if you choose too. There are things beyond the terrible power of loss and those are the truly important aspects of life.

So let’s pray for our friends and neighbors, and do what we can to help them. But as we do let us also resolve to learn from their experience so that we’ll be better prepared when loss comes calling on us.

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