My friend, Bill hung up the phone, “My sister just lost her house,” he sighed. Another victim of the most destructive wildfire ever to rage across Colorado. Bill continued, “I tell you man, we cling to so many things that are temporary.”
Bill is right.
When disaster strikes—floods, tornadoes, wildfires—we get this sobering reminder of what’s important; a stripped down look at what life really means. Bill’s sister evacuated her family well before fire swept through her neighborhood. She thinks about the antiques that were in that house. She takes inventory of things she’ll never see again…then she looks at her family and manages a smile.
Don’t ever love anything that can’t love you back
In Waldo Canyon, Rebekah and Byron Largent had just learned their house was one of nearly 400 leveled by the monster blaze. Worse, it happened on their daughter Emma’s first birthday. “What we lost can’t be replaced,” said Rebekah. Her wedding dress, her grandmother’s china, the rocking chair where the couple soothed and fed Emma, it’s all gone. But then, more powerful than the flames that altered their lives, came this: “It’s not the end of the world,” said Byron. “You lose some things you can’t replace, but as long as you’re alive—and we got our daughter out—what else matters?”
What else, indeed.
Last spring I walked through The Breakers, the Newport, Rhode Island summer “cottage” of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The 70-room, 65,000 square foot mansion was built along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. I was given an audio headset with a narrative describing each room’s interior in detail; the marble imported from Italy and Africa, the rare woods and mosaics from countries around the world. You could almost see the ghosts of dancers in the great ballroom, the music playing, their grand dresses and fine jewelry. It was as close to time travel as I will likely ever come. I imagined how awesome it must have been to “summer” here. How incredible to be so wealthy. Then the recorded voice in my headset said, “Cornelius Vanderbilt only spent one summer at The Breakers. Shortly after it was built, he died from a cerebral hemorrhage caused from a second stroke.
…one of the richest men in the world couldn’t add a single day to his life. And all of his “stuff” is now on display in his home-turned-tourist attraction. In the mansion’s library there is a grand fireplace with the inscription, “I laugh at great wealth, and never miss it; nothing but wisdom matters in the end.” I would change “wisdom” to “love.”
Fires will rage. Storms will strike. Health will fail. And love cannot come from a house. It can’t come from a rocking chair or an old wedding dress and it can’t be designed and constructed in France. Love is gifted to us. We are its caretakers. All the fires in the world cannot touch it. Love endures forever. It is all that really matters.
God bless the men and women fighting the fires in Colorado and helping families recover.