“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…”
In this life, we see only fragments of God’s plan. God sees the whole of his creation, and it is good.
Holding nine-day-old baby Peter, my daughter Sharla lingered with me at the table in her Chicago town-home kitchen. Her husband, David, washed lunch remainders from three-year-old Michael’s face. The phone rang. We almost missed the horrifying news.
They kept the ringer turned down and lowered the answering machine to sotto voce, only answering the phone if they were close and recognized the voice of someone they wanted to talk to. Otherwise they checked messages later and returned calls at their leisure.
On this sunny afternoon, David ignored the quiet ring, opened the screen door, and took Michael into their postage-stamp back yard to finish a carpentry project. As the call went to the answering machine, I recognized the voice of my middle daughter, Kiersten, calling from Omaha. Sharla rose to put Peter down to sleep and said, “I’ll call back later.”The mother in me strained to hear the words being recorded. The only two words I could make out shot me to my feet and I leaped to reach the phone. Sharla must have heard them, too. She sank back into her chair, asking, “Police? A fire?”My fingers snatched the receiver, brought it to my ear.
“Hello? Kiersten? What’s wrong?”
“Mom, the police are looking for Amy.”
Amy is my oldest daughter.
“Do you have any idea where she might be?”
“Amy? No. Why are they looking for her?”
“Amy’s house burned. They can’t find her.”
“Oh my God! The house burned?”
At my words, Sharla cried, “Amy’s house burned? Is anyone hurt?”
“Kiersten, is everyone all right?” I asked.
She began to cry. Her words slurred.
“Kiersten, put the policeman on the phone,” I said.
Muffled sounds preceded a man’s voice. “Officer Fry here. Do you know where your daughter Amy could be?”
“No, I’m in Chicago. Is everyone all right?”
“A fire started. One of her boys ran next door for help. Neighbors said he returned to the burning house, upset that firefighters hadn’t arrived yet. Before anyone could stop him, he ran back inside.”
“That had to be Jacob,” I said. “His twin can’t walk. He has cerebral palsy. Are they OK?”
“I am sorry ma’am, one of the boys didn’t make it.”
The words smashed into my ear, shocking my brain. I struggled to decode the sounds. Stunned, I repeated the officer’s words, “One of the boys didn’t make it?”