First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on Oct. 26th, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/when-life-goes-up-in-smoke-keep-a-sense-of-humour-kindness-and-grit
I awoke to the sound of whirring helicopters circling in my neighbourhood. My first thought was, “Oh no, not another SWAT team stakeout.”
My sister was already eating breakfast in the dim morning light. “Can you check the news and see what’s happening?” I asked her while rushing to the coffee maker to put on a fresh pot.
As I dressed and got ready for work, my sister read out the news to me as it was coming in. “There has been a fire at King Edward and Cambie. Five businesses on the east side of Cambie are on fire. The fire started at 3 a.m. in the morning behind the café. The main intersection is closed going all ways. They safely removed the cats boarding above the sushi restaurant.”
Each time she read something about the fire, I kept saying, “Oh no. Oh no.” It is so sad.
The QE Park walk-in clinic and pharmacy that burned to the ground are two businesses I will miss the most. The owner of the pharmacy and her assistant knew me by name and took care of me. When I had trouble describing what I needed to buy, they guessed right. Two weeks before the fire, they asked if I needed a flu shot and fit me in between appointments so I could get it right away. They were so caring and kind. I will miss them.
The next day, I looked at the ruins with my sister. The smell of smoke from the charred remains of the buildings reminded me of how temporary things are. And that life can change in an instant. Even my hope in God could be extinguished if I do not live a life of ordered love.
Says Father Francis Fernandez in the fifth volume of In Conversations with God, “If we live with Christ close by our side we will need few possessions in order to be happy as children of God.”
Reflecting on the loss from the recent fire sparked a resolve to live without regret. It shook me awake again to realize that life moves by, whether you are ready or not.
I was born with a sense of humour, kindness, and grit. These qualities help me in the unexpected anxieties that come my way. In the battle to find balance with a mood disorder. In the grieving of deceased friends, family members, and dear ones. In the interior struggle towards holiness.
I have a King who dotes upon me. He has healed me again and again. I trust he has a heaven of wellness planned for me. I often imagine walking with Jesus in a garden. There he shows me new delights, tall sunflowers, or a vineyard in bloom. What is your place of refuge to get away from it all?
This fall, I am adding more coziness and fun in my life as self-care. I relish small things that make me happy. Bird calls, perfume, new books, hugs, praying the Rosary with friends, and reading are a few of these things.
There will be things that upset us and make us worry. The Lord didn’t promise us an easy life but one full of joy. With our eyes resting on him, we can trust he will take care of us. I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly, says the Lord (Jn 10).
Will you see only the ashes from a fire? Or a sweet offering to begin again and offer everything to the Lord? My sadness at the loss of the relationships I had has brought me to a place of wonder.
What can God do with what seems impossible? What can I do to live more alive? What am I meant to do in this life? If I don’t have long to live, I don’t want to wait to do what I can do now. As Jesus said, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit” (Lk 12:35).
Only God can fill my heart with the fullness of love. In this disorienting time of the pandemic, I need to orient back to true north. I return my gaze to my Lord who is my comfort. May he continue to pour his love into your hearts.
Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Resilient Catholic: Shining light on your journey to flourish with Mental Health, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.