by Zinta Aistars
“There’s a tree on the roof.”
I blinked, looked at him, took in his perfectly calm, slightly bored countenance. Nothing rattles that guy.
“There’s a tree on the roof,” I repeated after him, trying it on for size, then looked past him at the roof of the house. It was dark already, but I saw no tree.
He nodded his head toward the opposite end of the house. “Over there.”
I pursed my lips, then let loose a long sigh. That was a new roof, just installed a little over a year ago. Ruined. Then again, hmmm, yes, that was a new roof, just installed a little over a year ago, and if it hadn’t been, considering the condition of the previous roof, that tree could have been decorating my living room. For all of that nasty crack down the middle of the roof, what looked like split rafters, the new roof had held.
My son and I stood side by side for a while, looking at the tree on the roof.
“What’s for dinner?”
“Oh,” I shrugged. “I’ll find something. I bought some smoked chops from that farm this week, grass fed.”
“Pig is pig.”
“Oh, but this was a happy pig, rolling in mud and sniffing fresh air in the barnyard.”
He went back to work in the garage, and I went inside to sizzle some pork chops. Those manly appetites, I thought, those keep us on an even keel no matter how big the storm.
Filing a claim online came next. Paying out the deductible would ouch a bit, but this was one of those moments when it made sense to have good home insurance. I prepared myself for a number of phone calls, papers to process, tree service and roofer calls to make, but all in all, my perspective was positive.
Ridley Barron, a minister who now talked more at hospitals and seminars than he did at churches. He had a special story to tell. About seven years ago, on a day like any other, Barron and his family—three young children and his wife—were in the family van driving across town. Someone ran a red light. At a high rate of speed, that car ran into the side of the Barron family van. The entire family suffered injuries, but his wife died while still in the car, and his youngest son, only 17 months old, was seriously injured, although expected to live.
What happened next made this tragedy almost unbearable. Between making funeral arrangements for his wife and checking on his other children, Barron visited his little boy at the hospital. The little guy was suffering but the prognosis was hopeful. When Barron left his little boy in the hospital, he never thought that would be the last time he would see him alive. That is, he would see him again, not long after, when a hospital staff person would call him back, but at that point someone would be massaging the boy’s heart through an open wound to keep him technically living until his daddy arrived.
The story was not just to make the audience cry—which it did. As we listened and watched the slides of the sweet, smiling faces on the overhead screen, we heard a story about healing, about forgiveness, about keeping hope alive when everything is falling down on your head.
Ridley Barron was able to forgive that pharmacist the very day that her mistake took his son’s life. Knowing that she had made an honest mistake, not a malicious one, no doubt helped. He was a preacher, after all, and if there was ever a test of faith, well, this would surely qualify. I imagine there were darker moments, too, when that human shadow side we all have must have won out, at least momentarily giving him doubts, making him wonder “why me?” and pour all the rest of human emotional chaos over him that we all surely suffer through when we take such a hard hit in life.
Today, he travels across the nation talking at hospitals about how to prevent such errors, how to treat patients and their families during such testing circumstances, and other valuable lessons of life. It was an hour well spent.
That hour also gave me great perspective when I got home from work that evening to find a tree on my roof. The roof had held. No one was hurt—although my pets were awfully happy to see me come home and give them reassuring snuggles. I can only imagine the noise they’d heard that day.
It was all just … stuff. Housing materials. Money. Sure, I’d miss that cash that had taken some time to save, but it was, after all, only money. I’d heard once that if you consider a problem in life, if it can be solved with money, even if you don’t have that money on hand, it’s not really a problem. That’s a bit simplistic, especially if you are without the cash, but I get the point. I have lived in poverty, and yes, folks, money does indeed buy happiness. It buys freedom, it buys opportunities, it buys peace of mind. If you’ve had to do without, you really learn to appreciate that.
I’ve also learned to appreciate true values in my life. I don’t care about fashion. I drive an older car with 135,000 miles on it. I live in a humble little house. I don’t own a big-screen TV. I’m working hard to achieve zero debt. I can spare that deductible. I am blessed.
I have a tree on my house, and what I later learn are four cracked rafters and 14 feet of ruined soffit and a bashed up chimney and a roof that is pretty much snapped in half—but it’s holding over my head while I await repairs. I also have a son sitting down to dinner with me, a daughter living not so far away whose life is in full bloom on all fronts, parents who are hanging in there even as the years roll bigger and bigger numbers over them. I have excellent health. I have work I enjoy. I have a network of friends that add sizzle and snap to my every day. I have my pets to snuggle. I have a fresh, new book manuscript to prepare for submission. What else? Oh , a long list yet …
I’ll miss that tree. It gave my house shade in the hot summer. Next spring, I will plant another, and return the blessing. I appreciate trees.
I appreciate all the many moments of life. Each one could be the last. You just never know when a car might come racing through a red light, or a tree fall from the sky. Today matters.