In my life, I couldn’t remember a colder morning than that Friday in January.
My husband, Darrell, was a couple towns over on business for the day. Just before noon, as I was doing a client’s hair, the police chief appeared at the door of my salon. “Gina,” he said, “I have some bad news. The fire department is on the way to your house. It’s on fire.”
I stood stock still, scissors frozen in midair. Fire? It was below freezing outside! How could this be possible? I grabbed my coat and ran out.
The chief of police got me home—or what was left of my home. Our quaint farmhouse was engulfed in flames. I stood helplessly and watched the firemen try to beat back the fire lapping out the windows.
Black smoke rolled up into the frigid blue sky. It was so cold the water in the fire hoses solidified. The hoses were rendered useless! “The water freezes as soon as it hits the air,” a fireman roared over the commotion. “We can’t stop this one.”
When Darrell made it home an hour later, all that was left of our house was a black, smoldering shell. My mom and dad offered us their spare bedroom. We arrived with nothing but the clothes on our backs.
Saturday was our busiest day of the week at Gina’s Cut-N-Curl. Against Darrell’s advice, I opened the shop as usual. “I’m fine,” I assured everyone.
As word got out, customers and friends poured in to offer help. “We’ll be okay,” I said, shrugging. “It’s not the end of the world.” I just had to keep going. That’s what I told myself, anyway.
My relationship with the Lord felt shaken to its very core, in a way I’d never experienced before. Had my faith burned up inside that house too? Along with everything else?
With each day that passed, I remembered something else I’d never see again. My photo albums, family antiques and worst of all, my wedding rings.
I never wore them to work, they were at home the day of the fire. We hadn’t found them in the wreckage. The loss of those rings, the symbol of my marriage, seemed the saddest of all.
The life Darrel and I had built together had burned up with that house. We didn’t talk about it, but I could see that he too was going through the motions these days.
We made an appointment with the insurance adjuster. “Make a list,” he informed us. “Do you have any pictures or receipts of items lost?”
I shook my head.
Pictures? I wondered. It would’ve never occurred to me to take pictures and catalog everything I own.
“What about my wedding rings?” I asked the adjuster. “Are they covered?”
“Unless you have some form of paperwork,” he said, “it’ll be hard to place a value on them.”
I fought back tears. I continued to put on my brave act at work, but as I sat in church on Sunday, my prayers were scattershot. What was there to pray for? I had lost everything. As I looked out over the bowed heads in the pews, I felt almost like I didn’t belong. Had I lost God too?
The next morning I drove to the mall to pick up some essentials. I had to start somewhere rebuilding our lives. I’d start at my favorite well-stocked department store.
But when I pulled into the parking lot I stopped short. “Oh, I can’t believe it!” I said. I had driven to the wrong mall. The store I wanted was in a mall five miles in the other direction. “Get it together, Gina,” I muttered.
I put the car in reverse. Just as I was pulling out I noticed the jewelry store. Maybe I should have a look at some rings. Sooner or later I’d have to replace my original set.
An older gentleman greeted me from the counter. “I lost my wedding rings in a fire,” I said, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “I’d like to start replacing them.”
“Where’d you purchase them?” he asked as I peered into the glass case.
“A little jewelry store downtown,” I said. “But it’s not there anymore. Hasn’t been for years.”
“Was it Garrett’s?” he asked.
“Yes. You’ve heard of it?”
“We bought out Garrett’s when it closed. Maybe we have your receipt.”
“We’ve been married thirty-four years,” I said. “You couldn’t.”
“Excuse me while I check into the back office.” The jeweler shuffled through a door. Why would anyone keep a receipt that long?
“Here it is,” the jeweler called out as he made his way toward me. “A description of the rings and how much your husband paid.”
He laid the receipt on the counter. There was Darrell’s signature! “I can’t begin to thank you,” I stammered.
“You know,” he said, tapping the receipt, “from the description here, we can duplicate the rings exactly.”
That sounded like the perfect way for Darrell and me to start rebuilding our lives. I thought I’d lost everything in the fire, but I hadn’t lost what’s most important. I still had Darrell. I still had God.
And what’s more, I had proof that I always would.