Loss of my Home: Trail’s End, Beginning and End

October 14, 2012 Published by Dina 31 Comments

Life can turn on a dime. On Wednesday, October 10, 2012, the unthinkable happened. My beautiful, beloved home in the country we named “Trail’s End” went up in flames and burnt down to the ground, leaving nothing but memories behind. I stood helplessly outside watching a lifetime of personal history vanish in front of my eyes. I cannot find the words to describe the feeling of despair.

Gone are the children’s memorabilia, the little shoes, dresses and remnants of baby blankets I kept as part of the precious memories. Gone are the baby albums with samples of baby hair and hospital wrist bands I kept for them with my notes about their growth and progress. Photo albums and boxes of our family pictures went up in flames. Gone is the box I kept with kids “stuff” they wrote and drew over the years (“Mom, give Erin a lickin’, she likes it”). All the notes telling me how proud they were of me when I went to law school (“my Mom the lawyer”). Gone are the framed drawings the kids made for me hanging in our bedroom. Justin’s little handprint with the inscription “Thank you Mom for your love”, Alexis’s painting with a child-like scroll of “Mom, you make my heart sing when I hear your voice” and Erin’s drawing with the words “I have all the stuff I need and all the love and care I need”. How can these be gone? I thought I would have them forever. It breaks my heart.

I stood on the driveway, helpless and numb, as the fire progressed from west to east, consuming room by precious room. Priceless furniture, paintings, books, rugs, dishes, crystal, all consumed by the fire. Framed photographs of life lived as a family here, gone forever. A wardrobe built over years, a jewelry collection that was personal and eccentric. I will never be able to replace or rebuild any of it. At the moment I feel like I lost my identity. My home, personal belongings, clothes, jewelry, books, they make a statement about who I am. This is how I present myself to the world every day. Who am I without these things?

And my kitchen, oh, my beloved kitchen. I spent hours every day in that beautiful, warm and comfortable place, cooking, feeding my family, talking on the phone to my children and friends and photographing so many pictures for my five cookbooks and recently for the blog. Gone. Never again will I make dinner for my husband in that beautiful kitchen, setting the dishes at the edge of the counter so it’s ready for him when he comes home from work hungry and ready for dinner. My beautiful kitchen. The wrought iron baskets on the counter filled with fruits and vegetables. The herbs in clay pots. The copper pots hanging above the counter, the family of five blue and red roosters on top of the cupboard, set upon set of dishes, glasses, serving platters, pots and pans, kitchen equipment accumulated over years, camera equipment, props, gorgeous linens. Ahhh. Nothing left.

And my books, over a thousand cookbooks collected over decades, many first print and inscribed personally by the authors. Other books about so many topics that interested me over the years. My life on the bookshelves. Such a devastating loss.

I know that “things” are not what is important. The fact that we are all safe and together is what’s important. As I said to the kids, I would torch the house myself if needed to protect them. Of course I know that there are worse things that could happen and that people suffer losses all the time. Yet the sense of loss is nevertheless great. I sought the help of a psychologist who told me I would experience depression and anger intermittently and should focus on the positive: I did not vanish in the fire, no one was hurt, my kids and husband still have me. I still have them. We still have our family. I am trying.

The kids have been incredible during this ordeal. This is the first time in my life that I felt depleted, nothing was left in me to give. I know it’s their loss too, not just mine, but I didn’t have the strength to give. And the kids came through. I have always been their anchor of stability, now they became mine. I had to depend on them for help and support and all of them came through in a way that makes me so proud to be their Mom. Their love, resourcefulness, and support is what is sutaining me these days.

And my friends, you know who you are. I know this event affected you deeply. We have a special connection developed and nurtured over a long time and now again you are providing me with comfort, wise counsel, a sense of belonging. What would I do without you?

I am vulnerable at the moment yet I feel strong. I know I will recover and come through. But I feel such a deep sadness. My husband still goes to work, trying to keep his routine. My house was my routine. Making beds, emptying the dishwasher, straightening up here and there, morning calls with kids and friends, cooking, photographing, blogging. Making a home. I am experiencing such a profound sense of loss.

I am settled in a hotel room facing the aftermath, feeling overwhelmed. A while ago I begun a photo-memoir book about our Trail’s End and now I know I have to finish it. It will be the story of our life in the beloved Trail’s End, from the happy beginning to its sad demise. If I don’t have physical things to leave to the children, I will leave a photographic legacy the best I can gather.

I will continue to share my love of food, cooking and travel with you on this blog but need some time to begin the healing. I have many posts that I have prepared in advance and I can start with those in the next while.

I am ending with an article I posted a while ago about what it means to me to come home to Trail’s End from vacation. It is my best tribute to a house I loved and felt intimately connected to. I hope you enjoy the read.

Coming Home from Vacation

Written in May, 2012

I love coming home from vacation. We live in the country, in a home we named Trail’s End. It’s an artistic house, nestled in the trees at the end of a long trail winding through the poplar forest and ending at the front door of our house (hence the double entendre name). We have lived here a long time and my identity is woven into and has become part of this house. Trail’s End is a special place for me.

Our house is an organic being. When I leave, it senses my absence and falls into a silent, slumbering sleep while I am away. The sounds of daily living are silenced. The long phone chats with kids and girlfriends, the sounds of food cooking, cameras snapping, book pages turning, music floating and dishes clanging are absent, allowing the house to retreat into a contemplative state, awaiting my return.

Returning home, I meet with silence in the house. A bit of dust accumulated in familiar places, leaves from the indoors trees have fallen, quietly waiting on the floor to be gathered and placed outside.  I walk through the rooms, letting my eyes rest on the much loved architecture and personal belongings, allowing my presence to gently wake up the slumbering house. I open a door and let the cool air stream in.

Soon I hear the house wake up gently. A creak here, a sound there, it is stretching, warming, opening itself up, welcoming my return. I walk into the kitchen. The empty baskets on the counter ready to be filled with produce again. I reach up to the copper pots hanging above the counter to wipe a spot of dust. The pots are clanging together, creating a melody of lived in sounds. I raise the blinds, letting the sun stream in, lights and shadows interplay, inside and outside merge, almost becoming one.

Soon the dust is wiped clean, fallen leaves taken outside, the baskets on the countertop filled with fruits and vegetables. A soup is gently simmering on the stove, its fragrance floating, permeating the air, promising dinner. The furnace is humming again, the hardwood floor sounds under my feet, acknowledging my presence. The sounds of both of us return, my house and I working and living together in harmony, creating a home.

I love coming home.


Copper pots in my kitchen/ image by Dr. Justin Honce

 

Part of a pitcher collection

 

White dishes

 

Lemons in a basket on the counter

Breakfast pastries in the kitchen / image by Dr. Justin Honce

Trails End, 2011

Welcome home

31 Comments

  • susan kootnekoff says:

    Dina & George, I just saw this post now. It’s still so heartbreaking. The photos provoke memories of your wonderful home. What I remember most is that beautiful fig tree. It inspired me to have a fig tree in my office for some time! And the fireplace, and of course, the kitchen. I don’t quite remember when or what we were doing, but I can remember a group of us women lawyers in your kitchen, chatting and laughing until we cried. So sad that it’s gone!

    • Dina says:

      Susan, thank you so much for your note. Thankfully we have the good memories from that beautiful home. I read a quote the other day that to mourn is respectful, to remember is love. We loved that home and mourned its loss, and will always temember it. Talk soon.

  • Melony Biedler says:

    Hi George & Dina & family,
    This is your cousin Melony from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Just finished reading about the devestaing fire of your home. Every single one of us all have our havens to come home to everyday and relax. That is why every single one of us can feel the pain you and your family must have experieaced. I am grateful no one got hurt and are healthy. Dina, you are a special lady. You are strong and positve which will help you press forward. The next time Mom and I are visiting my 2 sister in Kelowna BC we will go for coffee !
    Take Care
    Love you from all of our family.
    Marvelous “Melony”

  • Dina:

    It wasn’t until last night at Cameron’s that Clay and I learned of your tragic loss! We can’t begin to know the deep pain you have experienced and the crushing blow you and your precious family have endured seeing your entire life vanish in flames right before your very eyes!

    Life is fragile, uncertain and fraught with painful experiences that leave us bewildered, frightened and so full of questions as to why? and how can I make it through this?

    Dina, you are a strong, courageous woman and I know you will arise from the ashes of this experience, realizing your identity is much more than your beautiful home, its contents and the memories that filled its rooms.

    Your identity is who you are as a beautiful, gifted, brilliant, respectable, loving woman who has overcome many challenges in your lifetime . Yes this one is huge, but you can do it!

    God loves you more than you can possibly imagine and He will give you the strength to move beyond this, to heal, to grow and even to recreate your life in a more meaningful way that you may not be able to imagine today.

    Take courage my friend and know that you have a whole host of friends holding you and George in our thoughts and prayers.

    Love and hugs,
    Annette and Clay

    International Speaker, Author & Freedom Facilitator
    Best selling, Award-winning author of FORGIVENESS: THE MYSTERY AND MIRACLE

  • Mike Elliott says:

    Such a beautiful place! I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you can rebuild another beautiful home there or somewhere.

  • I am so sorry to hear about your ordeal, it’s terrible! Your pictures of your home were beautiful and it’s heartbreaking to think of your loss. It’s one of my biggest fears and I wish you the strength to get through it.

  • Jaelene Mannerfeldt says:

    Dearest Dina,
    I hadn’t read your blog for a couple of months – life get’s busy. Jim came home yesteresday and told me about Trail’s End. I am so sorry and feel your pain in your words. We were always honored to spend time with you in your country home and will cherish the memories. I am sending you a hug in my words, as there is nothing else I can send you right now. When the new year comes, I hope to see you.
    Love and hugs,
    Jaelene

  • Stacey Cameron says:

    Dina,

    Every time I try to email you, I end up erasing my words as not one of them seem to capture the loss that your family has experienced. With time, may you be blessed with new routines, new pictures, moments and memories in yet another “home”.

    Trails End will never be forgotten and in its memory, laughter, song and happy memories will fill the void in your hearts.

    • Dearest Dina, I so remember all the love you poured into your exquisite home and your growing family! Candria wept when she told me about the fire, reminiscing on the myriad of treasured memories made at Trail’s End. Justin, Alexis and Erin certainly had a magical childhood there… you are such an amazing mother!

      I have not been able to stop thinking of the countless parties and dinners around your table, with fireplace lit we would enjoy dish after dish of breathtaking food, prepared and presented as only you could do.You know how to make life work in the best possible way Dina, and the countless memories will never be erased, they will be treasured forever. Love to you, Bubbles

  • Andrew says:

    Dina, yesterday I was finally able to take a moment to check out your blog. I was excited to see all that you have been up to but to see what happened, shocked doesn’t start to describe it! I couldn’t even finish your post. I had to call Janay to tell her what had happened. If there is anything that we can do, please don’t hesitate to let us know. I can’t imagine the emotional roller coaster you are on right now but am glad that you and George are okay. Janay & I wanted to send you both, and the family, our positive energy in the hopes that it can help get you through the job ahead. Sincerely Andrew & Janay

  • Teresa says:

    Dina- I was so shocked and saddened to see the latest post about the loss of your home- I know what this must mean to you, but it’s a blessing that everyone is safe and unhurt. I have wonderful memories of the great parties you hosted at your home for the AWL, and I know that you will rebuild your life again. Take care,

  • Melissa says:

    Dina, I’m so sorry for your loss. You have shared so many beautiful memories of it here on your blog, and I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you and your family. My thoughts are with all of you!
    ~ Melissa

  • Hi Dina,
    I’m so sorry! I was wondering why I haven’t heard from you in a long time. Now I know why, but thank God you’re ok. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
    Take care

  • Darcee says:

    Dina, I have not stopped thinking about you and your family during this extremely sad time. To read your blog this morning brought me to tears. I don’t think I will ever just walk back into my house after a trip away and not think of your most touching words. You have such amazing gifts/ talents that never stop amazing me!! Thank you for blessing us with your special thoughts and memories.I hope to talk soon, I love you girl!! Darcee

  • Carol Robinson says:

    Dina my dear friend,
    You have described beautifully and poignantly the intensity of your feelings over this terrible loss. You have conveyed masterfully the actual physical devastation of Trails’ End. Never was there a woman who loved and cherished her home more than you, and your lovely home reflected it in all ways. But never fear for your identity. You are and will always be that beautiful, talented, resourceful, kind, artistic, loving woman that we all admire and respect. No loss or hardship will ever change that.
    I feel your excruciating pain in my mind and in my heart and hold you close constantly until it is diminished.

    Love and best wishes always,

    Carol

  • Jay says:

    Dina, I have thought all week of your family’s loss. It’s a terrible thing you are going through as a family, but I can see that it is especially terrible for you because of the special relationship you had with your home. It was the site of not only your children’s youth and family memories, but it was also the special place of your daily work as a mother, as a wife, as a homemaker, as an artist. It was the site of your culinary contributions to society. It was the special place you made beautiful to bring your friends to. And more.

    In a way, everyone who knows your family feels the loss of a part of their past because of all the memories there. I mourn for the sadness it has caused to people that I care about deeply. I think and pray for you.

    Reading your blog is strangely cathartic for me because of your expression of what can’t be expressed. I am encouraged to see you gather strength from your children, to watch the effort you have put into them be manifested in love and strength in your time of need.

    I know that the fire which took so much left ashes that will yield to greater and greener growth.

    I do not see you as lacking in identity in the aftermath, even though I know it feels like that. Your house was a reflection of you, not the reverse. There will be another reflection in time. And until that time, we’re all glad we still have the original.

  • Sadie Chisholm says:

    Oh Dina, my heart aches for you and George. what a traggic occurrence and I am so sorry. i have memories of our wonderful visit to your beautiful home and then i think of the millions of memories you must have , Please let me know if there is something that i can do. Sadie

  • Murissa says:

    I am so sorry to hear about this! Your writing is lovely and heartbreaking, I cannot imagine the helplessness you must have felt. You are in my thoughts and I am glad you have family to help you through this difficult time.

  • Marit Aldrich says:

    Dina I am so sorry for your devastating loss on multiple levels. My heart weeps for you and your family. Thank you for sharing from your innermost soul. Like Finn said ‘if anyone can recover from such a horrific loss it is Dina, she is a very strong woman’. A compliment for you Dear. Mostly take care of yourself, accept the love that surrounds you and know that you are also loved by all us bloggers and will look forward to connecting with you again when the time is right for you.
    Love and prayers, Marit

  • Dina, I when to your blog today as Kelowna was advertising for the holiday and it was sponsored by Olive & Ell and I thought that might be you. But, how horrified I was to see the main picture and read about the loss of your home! I’m so sorry – if there is anything that I can do, please do not hesitate to call or e-mail. I’m so glad that no one was hurt and that you are all safe.

  • Christine Homme says:

    Oh Dina,
    I cried while reading this. Your description of the deep loss associated with all the irreplacable keepsakes you’ve collected from over the years is heartfelt. I can’t imagine how devastated you all must be, rather like being in a black hole peering out, wondering where to start again. But, knowing the tremendous inner strength you possess, you will not only come out of this positively, but will find a way to re-invent your lives in a meaningful way. I am so grateful that you, George and the kids are safe. Please take care of yourself, take time to grieve and reach out. Love, Christine

  • Donna says:

    Oh Dina, I am so shocked at this. So many times i have thought about your beautiful home and the lovely lunch you made for me & other friends. I loved the way you always made such wonderful displays for your dining room table. I have been away from my things for seven months, leaving to help Crystal when she was very ill. Like you, I miss my things but know that it is my family & friends that really count. There must be some way we can all help. Will be in touch. I am so sorry. (I just let Iona know).

  • Marilyn Cameron says:

    Dina, Dina…I was so touched and deeply moved by your beautifully expressed sentiments regarding the loss of your precious home. My heart so feels the many thoughts, emotions and memories that you are dealing with. Please know that your sorrow is shared. We will all miss the warmth, love, laughter, great meals, unique parties and hours of shared friendship that were housed in your wonderful home.

  • Mandy says:

    Our family has been thinking about you since this loss and are so happy that everyone is ok however we understand how much of a loss this has been as well.. those were all your treasures that had so many memories attached to them.
    Love as always,
    Mandy

    • Patricia A Demers says:

      Dearest Dina, your loving description of your home and your attachment touched me
      deeply. The house is gone, but all your rich memories are not. Share them with friends,
      remind your family of wonderful moments, keep your memories close to your heart.
      Replace the hurt with the musical sounds, cooking vapors, times important and small
      of your life in your home. No catastrophy can take that away from you.
      Time will heal, but you will not want to forget. Big hug, Pat

  • PJ Gant says:

    I am shocked! Such deep. deep loss – I know words can not help – but just know, you and yours are in my thoughts – so glad you are all alive – so glad you still have each other – hugs to you my friend, pj

  • April Gustavsen says:

    Oh, Dina! I am so sorry….we saw the smoke and I prayed for whoever it was that everyone would be OK. I am glad you are OK but so sorry for your lost. I understand the heartbreak you speak of. Our home is our castle and our domain; the place we nurture our families. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the family.

  • J says:

    Lovely post mom, you are such a beautiful writer. Thank goodness we have each other!

    • Dina says:

      Erin, I am so sorry about the loss of our home. In spite of my deep sadness over this loss I know that as long as we have each other, that’s all I really need.
      Love,
      Mom

      • Judy Parker says:

        Dina – Sam sent us your blog and I want you to know how badly Phil and I feel for you and George at losing your home in such a violent manner. We hope that you will pull it all together in the very near future and you will be able to go ahead with your lives. We’re thankful that you both plus your children came away from the physically unscathed but are obviously badly shaken psychologically. May time be your best friend at healing

  • Oh Dini! How heartbreaking! I’m so sorry for you. Thank goodness you’re all safe.
    Take care of each other,
    Laura

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