It’s been less than two weeks since the fire, but it feels much longer. Our days are spent trying to take care of the most important tasks, like replacing our identification documents, purchasing the essentials, and coordinating with our insurance agent and the State Farm adjuster so that we can continue moving forward. They gave us a few addresses to check out, places we could move into for the 10-12 months it might take to rebuild our house.
We’ve also started looking for one or two good used cars to replace the three that we lost. That part is a teeny bit easier because I’m a Honda girl, which really helps narrow down the search.
To say that the process has been trying—and tiring—is an understatement. When you lose all your documents, it’s easy to get stuck in an endless loop of non-identity. You can’t get a replacement license without 6 points of ID. But you can’t get the important points without a government-issued ID. Your car insurance company won’t release payment until they get the titles to the cars. Which you can’t get without your license. And even though you have car rental coverage on your cars, no rental agency will let you have a car without a license.
But this is not a griping post, and I’m not writing to complain. I want to write about the highlights of the week, and hope it gives encouragement to those who are sometimes understandably exasperated with red tape and too-stringent rules and regulations, or just plain feeling blue.
Highlight #1: We finally got our licenses.
After multiple attempts and visits to different Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) offices, a security expert at one office finally took pity on us. Perhaps it was the sight of this family, with the husband in crutches and the wife dejectedly close to tears, that moved this kind man to walk over to us and ask us to tell him the story once more. Then he took everything we had—the police report, every document we had managed to scrape up the past few days, like bank statements printed by our bank manager and our bank cards—and appealed to the manager on our behalf.
Finally, we were called to the counter to collect our licenses and pay for them. They called Tim first, then they called me. As I stood there, the MVC employee across the counter looked at me and told me that she overheard what had happened to us and that she felt horrible, that she couldn’t imagine something like that ever happening to anyone. Then she reached out to take my hand, in a gesture of comforting. I reached out as well, and when she held my hand, she put something in it. I protested and told her it wasn’t necessary, but with tears in her eyes, she told me that her only wish is that she had more cash in her purse to give to us.
Tell me, how many of you have gone to a DMV or MVC and had the person behind the counter empty out her purse and give you everything that she had that day? For all the frustration that we’d gone through in order to get our licenses, what we will remember about the ordeal is the kindness of that man who saw our desperate need and helped us, and the compassion of Terry, the lady who gave no thought to handing a stranger all the cash that she had on her.
I am so glad that we finally have our licenses and I’m thankful that they didn’t have to take my photo again. Because if they asked me to stand in front of the camera for a new license photo, that might have been the final push that’d make me burst into tears.
Highlight #2: Stinkin’ cute kids.
Our friend Wayne visited us in our hotel room the other day. He brought along his youngest daughter, a 4-year-old cutie pie who can charm anyone’s socks off. She has the brightest dimpled smile and every time I held my arms out, she ran to me and gave me a hug. I made her popcorn and helped her go potty. It may sound like a small thing, but gosh. Kids are always a highlight.
Highlight #3: Our congregation.
From individuals just stopping by our hotel offering to drive us around, the long list of friends who can’t wait to start taking turns providing meals for us, my dear friend who gave me a key to her house and gave me blanket permission to enter her house whenever we needed anything, and the ready hands waiting in the wings to help us with the daunting task of cleaning up and the painful process of going through the ashes to hopefully find remnants of what we once had, they’ve given us no opportunity to feel like we’re alone in this. Material help and prayers and hugs have been abundant, and we thank God for friends like these.
Highlight #4: Shooting again.
A beautiful blogger based in California sent me her spare camera and lens as a loaner until I get my own equipment. Her spare camera and lens is the exact setup I used to shoot with. It was comforting to hold it in my hands, the familiar feel of the camera grip, the way my fingers instinctively know where to go to adjust the ISO or change the metering mode. It almost feels like I’m holding a piece of my old home in my hand. What a wonderful feeling it is to reach for it and, for a brief moment, let the tactile memory triggered by my fingers make me feel like things haven’t changed at all.
Highlight #5: YOU.
What you’ve all done for us is simply incredible. I wish I had my dad’s vocabulary (when he was a young, single officer in the Philippine military, he memorized the dictionary—don’t ask) so I can adequately express the depth of my gratitude. My friends Alice of Savory Sweet Life and Maggy of Three Many Cooks, along with so many other people, continue to amaze me. Your kindness and generosity has help us stay grounded, the light of so much love and support erasing the darkness of our loss. I won’t try to list every single person because I know I’ll miss some names, but I want you all to know that anything and everything you’ve done, from writing about it, tweeting, telling your friends, sending us words of encouragement, your donations at a time when the economy is shaky, and your prayers—they are all precious to us.
Despite the horrific things we see in the news around the globe, I am thankful that this world still has many good people. What a blessing it has been to have “met” many of you these past ten days.