We had just departed from my older brother’s home in Oregon, after spending a few days visiting him and his wife. It had been a great time, as usual, but we were ready to head for home, and we were only a few hours from our destination.
We had borrowed my Mother-in-law’s motor home, an older, open-designed model, with a nice, comfy couch located directly behind the driver’s seat. This is where I sat as we made our way down the highway.
I brought along some journals, one of which I had been writing in periodically since the beginning of our marriage. As it often goes, there were more entries from the earlier years of our lives than the more recent ones. Included were details about our first-born daughter, Melinda. Memories of her infancy, toddler-hood, and many of her first words and such.
I had also started journals for my other children, Michael, who was about 11 at that time, and 1 & 1/2 year old Marty. I thought the long drive would give me a chance to jot down more cherished memories.
We left LaPine before noon, stopping in a neighboring town to top-off the large gas tank before resuming the long drive home.
Andy drove, of course, with Marty seated next to him, buckled into his car seat in the front passenger seat. Melinda and Michael were enjoying the ride in the bedroom, which was located at the very rear of the motor home.
Less than 10 miles from where we had stopped for fuel, as we rounded a curve in the highway, the front tire of the driver’s side blew without warning.
I’m thankful for the good driving skills of my husband, for he was able to keep control of the motor home, as he carefully pulled the vehicle onto the shoulder.
As we came to a stop, smoke was billowing up from under the driver’s seat, and into the interior of the motor home, quickly becoming thicker and darker. Andy said, “Get out!”
I dropped everything, yelled to Melinda and Michael to come on and grabbed my baby out of his car seat while trying to stay calm. Andy struggled for a few seconds to get the latch on the old door to come free, and Melinda said, “Open it, Dad!”
By the time we all got out the door and began walking away from the motor home, the driver’s side was engulfed in flames. By the time we were a good safe distance away, looking back at the peril from which we had escaped, the entire motor home was an inferno.
The thick, black smoke smothered both lanes of the highway, with the fire so intense it literally melted the asphalt beneath it, and ignited the dry brush along the roadway.
Kind witnesses of our distress stopped to see if we were okay, as the kids and I stood crying and in shock, watching the motor home be reduced to nothing more than the frame it was built on. The only thing that survived the blaze was a pair of cast-iron wall hooks which I had purchased at an antique store. One good Samaritan literally gave Melinda the shoes off her feet.
We left the motor home with absolutely nothing. The irreplaceable journals, my purse, phones, baby supplies, identification. Nothing. I had packed some of our best blankets on the motor home, including the wedding-ring quilt which I had pieced, crafted, and hand-quilted myself….. It was all gone.
After the fire was out and all the legalities were taken care of, a local man who had extinguished the brush fire took us to his home, where he and his wife extended open arms and warm hospitality at what we had just endured. We quickly came to realize that they were fellow Christians, and he was a singing cowboy for Jesus, no less! God-sent is how we would describe them.
They drove us to a quaint, near-by town, where we waited for friends to come take us home.
Even though we were all okay and extremely thankful to have come out of the ordeal unscathed, the effort to process what had happened, and the numbness we felt from the traumatic events, was still with us well into the evening. In fact, all the children slept in our bedroom that night. We just needed to be together.
Sometimes, my mind plays out the other possible outcome. The more I think about it, the more frightened I get, but I remind myself that we were not alone that day.
There was one more passenger with us…Jesus.