A tragedy is defined as an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.
As horrible as this may sound, tragedies are inevitable in this life. And, each of us will have our fair share of them. No one is exempt. As long as we are still breathing, life is going to keep happening to us. Let me tell you about a time life happened to me.
I was about four or five years old at the time. I don’t remember lying down to nap, but I do remember waking up from my sleep.
I was lying peacefully on the bed, as five-year-olds often do when I was awakened by the smell of something burning. When I opened my eyes, I was surprised to see the whole place on fire. I had to squint my eyes to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.
Flames were everywhere. There was a lot of noise, and smoke filled the air. I recall seeing one of my uncles trying to beat down the flames.
He was yelling for me to get out. I think that’s what snapped me out of my state of shock. I remember grabbing something, maybe a blanket, and trying to do what I saw him doing, but he was yelling for me to get out. I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew I had to help do something.
To be honest with you, I cannot recall how I got outside of the house. When I think back, I remember climbing out of the back window, but I’m unsure if that was the night of the fire or another time when I was being curious about something.
At this point, I made my way to the front of the house and stood across the street. By this time a crowd had gathered there. The road was kind of narrow so there was not too much distance between me and the fire. “Mom”, I called out as I was searching through the crowd looking for my mom.
My attention was split between the trailer and the crowd. The flames had no prejudice. They were destroying the trailer and everything in it. This was so unfair.
I remember hearing my mom’s voice, but it was not coming from the crowd. It was coming from inside the trailer. I looked at the front door and all I saw were flames and my mom yelling as she was holding my little brother, who was a baby at the time.
I immediately ran towards the front door of the trailer to save my mom and brother. I was crying, yelling, and trying with all my might to get to that front door. However, I didn’t even make it across the street. Someone in the crowd grabbed me and held me back. I can’t remember what happened after that. My mind drew a blank after.
Many years later and well into my adult years, a relative was speaking to me about the fire. She told me that she was told that one of the kids in the crowd tried to run back in. She had no idea that I was that kid, and I didn’t say a word.
As I stated, I cannot recall anything else that happened that night after being held back from trying to save my mom and brother. I don’t even know who the person was that grabbed me. I know my brother and sister probably have no recollection of the fire, but the memory was seared in my mind.
My mom and brother made it out alive. However, my brother did get injured in the fire. His early years were filled with many doctor’s appointments and days in a wheelchair. He’s doing well now. And if you were to see him, you would never know he experienced such a tragedy at an early age.
This and That
It was at the age of five that I began to carry around a bag of guilt. Part of me felt guilty because I could not run into the burning trailer and get my brother out before he was injured. The other half felt guilty because, in my mind, I would rather it had been me than him. I knew the fire was not my fault, but again, in my mind, his pain was my fault because I couldn’t get to him. Or, I should have checked for him before I made my escape.
For years I would play the “If I had done this” game. Have you ever played that game? It goes a little something like this; if I had done this, that wouldn’t have happened. Or, “if I had done that, this wouldn’t have happened.”
I never told anyone, but this is what was going on in my head. I was beating myself up with “this and that”.
Guilt will have you playing the This and That Game (if I had done this, then that wouldn't have happened).... but the truth is, life happens to us all, and we must learn to accept what we cannot change. Click To Tweet
Her Matted Wig
As previously stated, the days after the fire were filled with many doctor’s appointments. Sometimes mom would take my sister and me with her and other times we stayed back. Regardless of whether we went or not, each appointment, medication, and wheelchair were constant reminders of the guilt I felt.
Though my brother was later out of the wheelchair and playing sports, I still felt that burden. I was very protective of him and my sister because of it.
There was an older lady in our community who was always messing with us. I never paid her any mind until the day I heard her crack a joke about my brother. She knew what he had been through when he was younger and still decided to crack a joke about it in front of the other kids.
“Oh, so you wanna crack jokes huh?!?” She knew what she said was way out of line. And because of that, I knew that I could say anything because there is no way she could tell mom what I said without what she said being revealed.
At that moment in time, it was like God was giving me a sign. The sun shined down at the right time and glistened on that matted wig she had on her head. I said, “I know you not talking about nobody with that matted church wig on your head.” The kids almost died with laughter because I said what all of them have wanted to say for quite some time. I was doing the Lord’s work on that day. Just kidding! I know I was wrong, but it felt so good.
I carried this guilt well into my teenage years. But it was then that I learned to let it go.
Ironically, one of the very things I hated was the very thing God used to set me free. I’m referring to our home bible study time.
Mom would have bible study in our home every week. The kids in the neighborhood love it, but I was like, “Jesus, take me now.”
One day, mom was talking about guilt and how God did not design us to carry that burden. Little did she know that she was speaking directly to me that day. I had been carrying guilt for years over something that I had no control over. Life happens to us all.
She then went on to explain that it is God’s will that we learn from the things we go through. On that day, I felt a weight being lifted off of my young shoulders.
That struck a chord with me. What did I learn from that fire? Yes, things were bad that night, but many good days followed. My brother was able to play football, basketball, and run track. Not to mention the fact that he’s a successful businessman today.
I realize that many of my life experiences are not only for me but to help others. As long as we live there will be tragedies. But we must choose triumph instead of tragedy. Choose the wins over the losses. Choose the good times over the bad times. Let go of the guilt, become the best version of yourself, and live your life!