by Iris Little Bird
The Denver, Colorado branch of my husband’s Italian family spent their holidays together in celebration. On Fourth of July in 1985, we left home to run errands for the day’s party at his sister’s home. When we returned, a neighbor stood in our yard.
Bob said, “It’s been burned!” In shock I replied, “No, it hasn’t.”
Our neighbor shepherded us to her house, saying, “I didn’t want you to be alone when you came home.” Our house had been robbed and arsoned. Who would do this to a young couple with almost nothing? Before long, Bob’s entire family arrived and we went home. I thanked our wonderful neighbor who’d stood outside waiting for us.
In shock, I walked into a black abyss. Everything was black and charred. My tiny kitten I’d fed from an eyedropper had died of smoke inhalation. Though we removed him before we let our adult cat in, “Granny” wailed as if her own life were over as she realized the loss. She’d taught him how to drink from a bowl.
My wedding dress was ruined. It was my worst nightmare — total chaos with blackness controlling everything. Law enforcement discovered the arsonists had set the house on fire by pouring kerosene on a chair and lighting it. The fireman said had it been discovered any later, it would have gutted the entire house. Our privacy had been invaded, turning our lives upside down.
That day I had no appetite for Fourth of July fireworks… or eating. Fireworks seemed to be a “monster” to me. I couldn’t watch without thinking of the blackness of the house. Freedom in the midst of ruin?
Our tiny missionary church had many poor members. Many volunteered to help us, under the experienced advice of Fred H. They worked every evening after their jobs and all weekends. Many gave cash, food and offered places to stay. We lived in an old camper in our back yard, to be closer to the project.
We scrubbed and worked to remove the smoke smell. I learned to paint, install drywall and paneling and replace fixtures. Fred was with us every step of the way.
I couldn’t think of “it” as “our home”. Had it not been for the support of family and friends, I would have felt homeless.
A few days after the arson, a beautifully colored tiny rose bloomed. It seemed out of place, especially when I thought of the crime.
This special rose was named “Peace Rose”. I swallowed hard reflecting on the crime. Then I pictured all the people making my house a home again. At that moment our house became a real home to me again.
At last, we had an Open House Blessing with all those who’d worked so hard to make our home a reality. The Peace Rose and its significance seemed to come inside our home.
Even in the midst of great pain, love found its way to the core of our existence.