The second month of your life has been filled with sorrow. On November 8, the unprecedented happened. A fire blazed through the nearby city of Paradise, Calif., and destroyed near everything in its path, including the homes of my grandparents, Howard and Corine, and my uncle, Nate. As of now, the Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive wildlife in California history.
The weeks after the fire were an emotional roller coaster of processing for our entire family — gratitude for safety, heartbreak for so much loss, confusion on what to do next, worry about the health of the environment and survivors, concern on how this would affect our entire community, curiosity about the short and long-term economic impact, and on and on and on. The community, as a whole, was in a lurch trying to survive. Thousands were now homeless. The air was toxic to breathe. The fire was not contained for I don’t even remember how long. Each night, the sheriff would announce the ever-rising death toll during a nightly news conference. New areas were being asked to evacuate as the fire threatened new areas.
The first day, the fire got too close for comfort, and we voluntarily left to my parents’ home in Rocklin. We stayed for a few weeks because the air quality was so toxic in Chico. It was bad enough in Rocklin. And with you being so tiny, we wanted to keep you as far away as possible. It was painful to be away, as your father and I both wanted so badly to be able to help somehow. But we also recognized our personal limitations and at this point, we’d be better off not using precious, limited resources in town, if we could help it. One night in Rocklin, Mercedes started crying because she just wanted to be home. It broke my heart for her. And it broke my heart realizing how many in our community no longer had the option of going home.
Around Thanksgiving, news reports came out that norovirus had broken out in the fire refugee camps around town. Your dad, in his work as a social worker, somehow came in contact with norovirus. Regrettably, he wasn’t able to join us for Thanksgiving because we didn’t want to risk him getting you or my grandparents ill. I worried about your dad’s welfare by himself, and it felt strange to be away from him for a holiday. I had told myself being all together for Thanksgiving would help us feel some sense of normalcy. Having that taken away was heartbreaking. It was a painful reminder on how tragic this event had been for our entire community.
A lot of our family and friends checked on us, and wanted to know how we were doing — especially considering we were dealing with the stress of a newborn on top of everything else. But, amazingly, you were nowhere near a source of stress in our lives. In fact, it was quite the opposite. You were our joy. Our bright point. Our reminder that all is well in the world, and that we have reason to have hope in the future as we move forward with faith.
One late night just before Thanksgiving, while we were taking a break from nursing, I had you laying in my lap. I sang “You Are My Sunshine” to you. As I sang the first time around, the moment I said sunshine your face lit into a full, beautiful smile. I sang the song a few more times to you. And you beamed at me the entire time. I am not ashamed to admit it made me cry.
Since you were born, our family has dealt with several illnesses, a car wreck, this fire, and one of our cars breaking down. It’s been long and exhausting and emotional. Despite it all, you have been an absolute delight. A ray of sunshine when our skies were literally gray with ash and storm clouds. We are grateful for the much-needed perspective you’ve given us. You’ve anchored us with gratitude, joy and perspective in the many storms of our lives.
Inevitably, someday the storm clouds will roll in to your life. I hope and pray that you always seek joy in your journey. I hope your faith in Jesus Christ lends you much-needed perspective on what matters most. I hope you cling to gratitude and joy and always find cause for happiness.
I love you, sunshine.