It Finally Happened -- I Chose Forgiveness
WARNING -- I AM SHARING PICTURES OF THE FIRE DAMAGE TO OUR HOME. PLEASE TAKE CONSIDERATION WHEN READING THIS POST!
I would suggest when reading this post that you do it in one of two ways. Either go through, look at the photos and read the captions first, or go through and read the blog and then go back and read the captions. The captions do not align with the post, but they are captions that I wanted you to have to understand what you were looking at.
The day that Shane and I sat with the fireman who had been in charge of the fire investigation for our home, we learned that our fire...the very fire that took our daughter's life, might have been prevented if the electrician who had completed work had been honest about the work completed.
(This is what was how our home looked being demolished. This was what it was like to see almost 13 years of living in a home demolished into nothing. This was the only home I would ever share with my sweet girl and today if you drive by, it looks as though no house ever stood on that lot.)
Let's back the story up a bit. I guess to fully understand you have to go back to January of 2008 when we were house shopping. We looked at many different properties in different areas of Central Illinois. When we found the house at 726 East Chestnut Street in Canton, Illinois...we fell in love. It seemed like the perfect mid-sized historic home to raise a family. It had a cute backyard that was fenced in. It had a few gorgeous trees. There was a small garage and it had enough bedrooms for Andrew and the new baby on the way.
(This picture will forever haunt me. Adeline had been struggling to sleep for months. She was even having problems with her eyes from not sleeping and she was so full of anxious energy that wasn't normal or typical of her. This nervous energy increased in the last few weeks of her life. I also had weird senses that I should do things that I didn't typically do...like every time I would do a grocery pick up order and she asked for them, I got her favorite candy Sweet Tarts for her. For those of you who know me, this was completely out of character. Anyways, this is how she was last playing with her dolls. Yes, one of them is on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on. I will forever wonder if she knew what was to come and if she just didn't know how to communicate it to us all. I would have saved her if I could.)
We had the inspection done for our loan and it was determined that we could not get the loan because the wiring was not up to date or in line with the current fire codes. The seller said no problem and hired an electrician to take care of the issue. After the electrician came, the house passed the second inspection.
Now, here is where things get tricky. The house was supposed to have all of the old tube and lock wiring replaced. When we had our fire, it was revealed to us that the house did have new wiring that could have been seen on inspection, but that the wiring that was not seen was still the tube and lock wiring. Someone lied and that lie ended up costing the life of my littlest love. I asked what could be done. No, while it would have been nice to charge someone with homicide and see someone pay for Adeline's death, Shane and I both knew that the death was not malicious and that it was from someone making a stupid mistake. That being said, we wanted to be able to take this man to court and to force him to make repairs to any other homes that he had done this to in Canton, to make him aware that he did not do the work that he should have and that our daughter died because of it.
(This is our stairwell. This is approximately where I was when I started crawling away from her and the point that I could not get past when I was trying to get back up the stairs to save her. This is the exact place of my greatest nightmare in life.)
Sadly, we learned that the evidence had burned and that the fire was too hot to have the evidence that was needed to prove this without a doubt in court. The fireman told us that he had investigated over 1000 fires and that he was certain that this was the cause. That it had been electrical because it started in our kitchen and our attic simultaneously. This is also why the house engulfed in smoke so quickly and Adeline likely got confused or wanted to quickly run upstairs to grab something when I went to open the door. (Obviously, there is not a thing that anyone can say to me that will ever make me feel like this decision was not the worst one that I have ever made in my life and that it was my fault that Adeline died in that fire. It is a lot to live with but I have come to terms with the fact that it was a mistake, that I did follow all of the fire safety training that I had been taught, and that I would have never made that choice had I had any idea that this could be the outcome. I really didn't even think about this outcome for a second and in my mind both girls would quickly be able to get out of the fire.)
(This is the bedroom that Adeline and Althea shared, the last bedroom that Adeline would ever have. As you can see, everything is pretty much damaged or gone.)
So, I have had dreams where I run into this man in HyVee and hit him over the head a few times with a can of peaches. I have had dreams where I get to tell him how his shitty work ethic was the cause for my daughter's death and that I want him to have to live with that guilt for the rest of his life. I want vengeance. I mean, wouldn't you? Then there is the side of me who has been around this man and knows that this man is kind. I do not know the whole story nor what he was told by the homeowner who hired him (and let's be honest, I do know the previous owner and I know if this was something they did to cut costs that it is hurting her, she is a kind and compassionate human). I can be logical and understanding in that, I am certain that he did not mean for my child (or any child for that matter) to die.
(This picture is one of the hardest for me to look at. This is our bedroom. If you look straight up can see the desk under the window against the back wall. This was the desk that I sat in and where I worked and did grad school. The small little wooden desk behind me is the desk where Adeline sat to do school and read. I don't think that I will ever be able to have an office space that feels as wonderful as this one did. To have her by my side each day, asking me questions about what I was working on and becoming intrigued by mid-century homes with pink bathrooms are moments that I would not trade for anything, except to have her back here with me. During the long months of COVID we played games in this room, learned together, cuddled, watched movies, and shared so much love!)
That being said, it happened. I want to make him aware of the work that he did. I want to make him take responsibility if he did this type of work anywhere else. I want for him to know that this could happen to someone else and that he should fix these things for anyone else that he did this to for free.
Anyways, after almost exactly two and a half years of thinking about how I would handle things (12/20/2020 - 5/22/2023), I finally ran into this man. For background, I avoided subbing at the grade school where this man's wife worked because I wanted to not freak out or have the emotions that I had when I saw her. I had a panic and almost an anxiety every single time that I would see her. For one, I was jealous that it was me that lost my daughter because of her son's work and not her. I know that is a horrible thing to admit to, but when you are in the deepest darkest pain that you can imagine and you think that someone is largely to blame for that pain, it is hard not to wish that he also have to go through horrific pain. You want him to know how you feel, to know what it is like to have to live without someone you love so much and hold so dear to you.
I had dreams of how I would approach him, what I would say to him, how I would handle myself, and even thoughts of whether or not it would be worth it to get arrested if I hit him. His wife was retiring and that is why he was at the assembly that I was required to be at. His wife is a kind person, a wonderful teacher, and I know that in no way would she ever say anything unkind to me. I didn't want to take away from her moment. I didn't want her accomplishment that she worked so hard for and put so many years into to be shadowed by me confronting her husband. So, I sat in my chair clenching my hands into fists and willing myself to breathe through it as the silent tears feel throughout the assembly. As soon as it was over and the people that were between me and the end of the row were out, I raced upstairs to the classroom to be out of his presence and I cried.
(This was the back side of our house. The space in which there was not much left. So many moments our family shared on this back porch or Shane and I would sit here watching the kids play in the yard. It is a space that I would go back to and cling to if it still existed.)
I really cried. I cried for my girl and for the things that I did not know. I cried because I knew that I might give up my one chance to confront the man who was responsible for her death. I cried because there was nothing that I could do about it. I cried because no matter how much I want her back, I can never again hold her in my arms on this earth. I cried because I will never get the chance to tell her I love her again or to hear her tell me that she loves me. I cried through the anger and frustration that I had been bottling the past 883 days. I cried and I cried. I let myself feel everything that I was feeling. Then I dried my eyes and moved on to the tasks at hand.
It felt good to know that I accomplished controlling myself. It felt good to know that I was strong enough not to let this break me and that I did not punch him in the face with all of the force that I am certain he deserves. I didn't choose violence. I didn't choose to hit someone which is something I would have never condoned for my kids to do. I was the bigger person and I walked away. Do I still want to confront him one day? Yes, but I need that to be a day when I can calmly talk to him, calmly ask him to make sure that he did not do these shortcuts to other homes and that if he did, to very nicely request that he please not make another family live through what mine is going through. I want him to know that his decisions to cut corners affected my life in so many ways. I want him to know that through this all though, I am choosing forgiveness. I needed this to happen as it did. I don't know that I could have chosen forgiveness before, that I could have chosen to walk away had it been a different setting or a different kind of day. I know that one day I will be able to say my piece to him or perhaps I will write him a letter and share with him that he doesn't know me but I know him. I need for him to realize that his actions had consequences, but that I forgive him because I know in my heart that this is not what he ever meant to do. I know with every fiber of my being that telling him this would likely actually hurt him, but sometimes we have to go through pain to understand the consequences of our actions. I know that I did.
(We had created this adorable little sitting area on our porch. The girls would play for hours out here and I can still remember the laughter that I heard coming from this couch as I sat in the living room reading or watching TV. To go back to where I could hear that laughter would be the most magical gift of all.)
I messed up the day of that fire too. I was always told never to carry a child through the smoke, that their little lungs might not be able to handle it, and that they could die. This is why I didn't pick up Adeline and why I instructed the girls to quickly get out behind me. Had I know what I do today, that fire was not present in the basement and that Andrew could have gotten his door unstuck on his own, I would have stayed with her and went down step by step with her. I can't change the past. All that I can do is move forward and try to ensure that this does not happen to someone else. If there was no chance that this would happen to someone else, I do not think that I would waste another minute thinking about how I should approach/inform this man. I want to help others and that desire is strong because there are so many house fires in Canton. So many homes that burn down in similar circumstances. Maybe, I could save a life if I talked to this electrician and begged him to fix other homes so that no one else has to face losing who they love.
One day, I hope that I get guidance on how I should handle this situation and how I should approach him, but I know for certain that the day that I first saw him was not the day.