Things can change in a blink of an eye. How many times have you heard that refrain? We hear it but for the most part, we don’t heed what it really means until that moment, that moment when things really do change in an instant, in the blink of an eye. This month is the two year anniversary of the firestorm that changed Sonoma County and me forever.
It was October 8th 2017 a Sunday evening and we had been out to dinner celebrating our wedding anniversary with friends. When we returned home we noticed the wind but it is often windy where we live on the outskirts of Santa Rosa in the county. Nothing unusual and off to bed we went. Around 12:45 in the morning our son called and finally woke us up, all I heard my husband say is “oh no” as he hung up the phone. By then I was semi awake as are most Mother’s when their kid calls in the middle of the night no matter what age they are. I asked what was going on, and my husband said “ it’s not good” well that made me shoot up in bed and really wake up!
He said look out the back and there it was a sky as orange as a pumpkin swirling smoke clouds and an eerie feeling. I said… well you can guess what I said. I knew if I ever was to see fire on the ridge behind our house we were at the mercy of fate, as there was nothing between us and the mountain ridge save a few houses up farther on the hill. At first it was surreal I could not believe what me eyes were seeing what I was smelling and what was happening. Then it kicked in, that 6th sense that makes you go into a combination of overdrive and panic all at the same time. We gathered the family together. All for one and one for all, and we packed our motor home with as much as we could. It’s funny to remember what we took and what we left but that is another story…
We lost power which in the countryside meant we lost water too since we are on a well, we had no way to protect the house or anything else. We left thinking we would be back as soon as “they” put the fire out we had 5 dogs three generations of people, and some champagne (mine) in the motor home when we went to the parking lot of the closest grocery store we gathered with others as we watched with terror and awe as our mountain turned from orange to red to black smoke. We saw the trees turn into red skeletons in the glow of the fire, houses explode into fire balls, and ash rain on us like snow.
We had to move farther away from the fire there were no fire trucks, no police sirens, just stunned people in the parking lot, all whom were now leaving to move farther away from the fire. We went to the office but not without picking up an elderly lady who was in her nightgown and robe alone in her car. She had forgot her dentures when she left her house and wasn’t really talking to anyone. We scooped her up and took her with our caravan to our office about 4 miles from our house.
We settled there animals and all and turned on the news. Meantime the management team started to come in to help with our clients and care providers. I didn’t have to ask they just were there and knew what to do. I am not going to lie I wasn’t the strong one (I wish I had been) but I was so sick about leaving my other animals at my house I was a mess. I had a horse and 5 goats that we had to leave there to fend for themselves and I was devastated.
We started calling all our clients using our triage list of who had care around the clock, who was alone at home at that time, and who had no family close by. We went though the list and located most of our clients two where in Board and Care’s or facilities and the facilities took charge of evacuations for them. We went to client’s home’s to check on them we located our care staff, some came to help, some were at clients and stayed with them, some took the client with them to the office or their own homes.
Once we saw the news things got worse, fire was on three side of us and we waited. When we knew where our clients and staff were we waited and waited for news of things to get better, they did not at least not for a few days.
We saw patients all through at first week our dedicated staff worked long hours staying way past their shift schedules to care for their clients and their pets and families. We took in clothes for our staff who had lost their homes we gave them food clothing and money as needed. We had a giant slumber party in the office for several days at one point we had 4 families, 10 animals including a pet rat and lots of junk food there.
We made the best of a really bad situation, we worked with the Department of Public Health to get masks for our care providers, we got food and medicine to our clients we reunited pets and families as well as families and family members and we survived.
We survived but we were all changed from that day forward. Thanks For months we could not really speak of the fire without tears, anger and sadness. We appreciated each other more, we came to realize for the most part, we could replace things that were no longer there. We mourned the loss of life in our community and we celebrated the survivors, and we changed, our DNA changed forever more.
For me I learned many a valuable lesson. Lessons that remind me things can change in a blink of an eye so if you are not doing and being all that you want and wish, change it now before the next blink of your eye. Tell those you love that you do love them deeply, madly and always. Bring passion to your life in your work and in your play. Do what you have always wanted to do don’t wait until you (fill in the blank) retire, have the money, have the time, or that person, just do it! Nike is on to something I think!
I share this message to remind myself and others that life is short make it meaningful make your experiences what count, be thankful and talk those who support you in your business and in your life. I am thankful for the wonderful staff, and teams that support the clients and patients we care for, and I am thankful for the common bond of caring for others, caring for our community and caring for our world.