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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Postcards (08/29/05)

TITLE: Ashes


“That is all I have left”, I said to my husband with exasperation, hurt and frustration.

He picked up the two postcards from the footstool and we sighed in unison.

The flames were intense and the old wood just would not withstand the fierce enemy that licked at its structure. The cool spring air brought a haunting glow to the sky as my husband responded to the call. It just could NOT be happening. As a professional firefighter, he has seen the ‘worst of the worst,’ but none of his professional training prepared him for what he would see as a volunteer firefighter for our small community fire department.

In the middle of the night, his emergency radio screeched, “Fire at the bridge.” I woke up out of my peaceful sleep and said, “Oh God, not our bridge.”

In the rural Midwest, where we reside, historical covered bridges are a part of everyday life. They dot our landscape from one end of the county to the other. They are functional; we drive our cars and farm tractors across them. They are social enhancers, as many first kisses and engagements have been ‘rumored’ to have taken place on them. They provide an economic boost to our county as tourism booms in October at our Covered Bridge Festival, with millions of people coming to visit. These bridges are truly, our pride and joy.

Earlier in the week, my children and I were taking a usual route to the next small town to do some shopping. As I crossed near our ‘own’ covered bridge, I slowed my speed down and looked over my shoulder. As many times as I had seen it, I was captivated with the beauty that I saw in my hindsight. The trees were beginning to bud; small flowers began to add color to the surrounding area, the large red covered bridge rested so peacefully over the gentle waterfall. Who would have thought, that would have been the last time I would see that bridge.

It was gone, a total loss.

Our covered bridge was set ablaze by an arsonist.

What possesses a person to set a fire in the first place is something I have yet to comprehend. The potential suspect has been arrested for setting other fires and is suspected for burning down one of our other historic bridges.

As I turned the postcards with pictures of my bridge over in my hands, I contemplated how I would frame them to preserve this precious memory. Kick it into action, I thought, I preached to myself….. You know all about forgiveness and how it is commanded in the bible, even if you don’t feel like it. Anger filled my heart and it was justifiable because it was the general reaction by so many. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, was my immediate reaction. I want to be angry for awhile. To report that I obediently practiced my Christianity and instantly forgave this person would be a lie.

Then, something happened, much to the surprise of many. Out of the despair, a community has grown. In hopes of rebuilding the bridge, other things have been rebuilt. Unity, commitment, friendships and forgiveness are being restored.

Negative talk about ‘the guy that did this’ is replaced by positive conversation of ‘what is our next goal?’

And yes indeed, out of the ashes, sometimes something beautiful does evolve.

My postcards are framed now, but instead of a looking at it as a painful memory, I see the contents within the frame as a first step to rebuilding much more than a bridge.
Isaiah 61:3 and 4 (NIV) (my emphasis) ….. (3)and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (4) They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Karen Ward09/05/05
Great message - beauty for ashes, and hope that we can move on to better things...
Jan Ackerson 09/07/05
I appreciate your honest reporting of your genuine feelings of anger and frustration. Work on more consistent tenses, and your piece will have a more polished feel. Unique perspective on this week's topic--thanks!
Anita Neuman09/07/05
Great original idea, and a realistic portrayal.
Julianne Jones09/09/05
Covered bridges? Sounds so romantic! What a loss for you and the community. Creative take on the topic. Felt there needed to be a stronger link between the opening paragraph and the one beginning "The flames were intense". At first I thought you were upset with your husband because he went out to fight the fire. Watch you tenses and this could be a really great piece!