It was 5:30 in the afternoon. The routine ending of an average day. My friend was taking care of some of his work related paper work in the computer room of his two story home. His wife was in the shower just down the hall. In the midst of the regular routine, at a mundane hour of the day, everything changed suddenly for this unsuspecting couple.
Larry heard a noise that he described as somewhat like the sound that the heat pump makes when it kicks on - but slightly different. Accompanying sound, the lights flickered, but didn't go off. He thought it would merit a brief investigation, and to his surprise and horror, when he descended the steps into the living room, he found the side of the sofa on fire!
Rushing to attempt to beat out the flames, he discovered the back of the sofa was also ablaze. Suddenly the curtains behind the couch ignited and the flames shot to the ceiling and spread quickly through out the room. Frantically, Larry ran up the stairs yelling to his wife in the bathroom that the house was on fire and they had to get out immediately. He screamed for her to follow him, now! However, when he got back to the living room it was an inferno. He turned to look for Denise, but she had not followed. The flames spread so quickly that he could not get back to the stairway.
Standing outside the ICU Burn Unit the next day, Larry's eyes welled up with tears and his voice broke as he recounted the story to me. "My wife was upstairs and I couldn't get to her. I have never felt so helpless". He continued the story -
The heat was intense and overpowering, and his lungs burned from thick heavy smoke that quickly filled the room. He found the front door, and when he opened it, the back draft blew him and the flames through the threshold. He found himself outside yelling for his neighbors to call 911 and frantically wondering about his wife.
As the flames quickly engulfed the remainder of the house. As Larry stood helplessly below as Denise called to him from the second floor bathroom window. There was no way out. Trapped, and herself aflame, she had no alternative but to leap from the window, falling over twenty feet to the snow covered yard. Although only five blocks from our city's excellent medical center, the seriousness of her burns and injuries convinced first responders that she should be life flighted to the Trauma Unit of Cabell Huntington Hospital, about 18 miles upriver.
As I visited with Larry and his family at the ICU unit, Doctors and nurses were doing a procedure on Denise, and we could not be in the room. We stood there in the hallway, and Larry, who was, himself, badly burned on his neck, ear, and on both hands, told me the horrible story. "We don't have a home" he said sadly. "We've lost everything we own, but I fear I may lose my wife..."
Her condition was critical. She faces a tremendous battle with respiratory problems. Her lungs were damaged from the smoke inhalation and extreme heat exposure. Second and third degree burns covered her body. Should she recover from these, Denise faces even more problems with several broken bones and other internal injuries from the two story fall.
"It all happened so fast and the intensity of the heat was like nothing I have ever felt!" Larry kept repeating.
And that is exactly how it is. Everything we know can change in a moment, in the blink of an eye. All that we own can be suddenly and unexpectedly taken away. Beloved family members can be snatched away from us by accidents, tragedy, or sudden illness. You and I are only a heartbeat, only one breath away from transitioning from this life to the next, and there is not always even a moment's warning.
Larry and Denise are devout followers of Christ. Although unsuspecting of the tragedy that has changed their lives, they trust in the One who holds the present and future in His sovereign hands.
"God is in control" Larry told me, through his tears. "I know He will do what is right."
You and I are headed for the unexpected and the unknown in this life. Count on it. It is imperative that we have a personal relationship with the One who can bring us safely from this uncertain world, into the next.
The Bible reveals that Jesus told his followers on numerous occasions, "Be ready". The warning is not just for emergency preparedness, but for your eternal security.
Are you prepared?