I believe that whenever we are confronted by a sudden death and the grief that follows, we re-live all the other deaths we have encountered. It works that way for me--in the middle of the disbelief, I take out memories of all the other losses that have happened before.
And then, of course, we take a good hard look at our own mortality.
Hopefully, the next step is to find something constructive to do with our sadness; some way to turn great loss into something positive.
When my friends' house caught on fire, so many things went wrong:
First of all, there were no smoke detectors in the home. If there had been, the story might have had a different ending.
The fire may have started by a small kitchen appliance, left on or plugged in right below the bedrooms.
The bedrooms were upstairs, as is often the case in a two-story home. But Bill was elderly, ill with Alzheimer's, and easily confused. It would have been very hard to get him out quickly.
The emergency dispatcher received a 911 "hang up" call. Not knowing the nature of the emergency, the police went to the house, discovered the fire, and called for the fire department to respond.
The policeman tried to get inside to the occupants but, once inside the house, found his way blocked by too much furniture that was in the way.
Although the house was located less than 50 feet from the fire department, the town has an all volunteer department. Those volunteers were at the fire in an amazing seven minutes. Bear in mind, they had to get the call at home on a Sunday night, get dressed, get down to the station, get into their gear, and get the equipment across the street. A seven minute response time is even more amazing when you consider the logistics.
Ironically, October is Fire Safety Month.
Here are some things you can do right now to keep your family safe. Do them in memory of Jane and Bill and Copper:
Check your smoke detectors. Make sure they have fresh batteries and are fully functional. Buy a smoke detector for someone you know who doesn't have one, and install it for them if they are unable to do so themselves.
Have an evacuation plan and a place for family members to meet outside the home. Practice by having drills.
Make sure that you always have two ways out in case of an emergency, and make sure that those passage ways are clear of any clutter.
Consider moving elderly or frail family members to a bedroom on the ground floor.
Unplug kitchen appliances when they are not in use.
Of course, there is a lot more information available about fire safety in your home. Here are some resources that will get you started:
For teachers: ABC Teach Fire Safety Month
Please pass this message on to everyone you know.