On the 1st of June 2019, early in the morning when Chris, my now husband, already left to get started on his work on the farm, my son, Duandre, and I were still at home, getting ready for the day. Because it was a cold day the heater in the TV room was on and all windows & doors locked. Duandre was having his cereal in front of the TV while I was taking a shower. The heater caught alight and set the curtains on fire. Duandre, being just a small toddler, didn’t know what was going on and just giggled at the sight of the flames. He called out to me and when I entered the room the curtains were already burning. Although a little confused by the sight of the fire, I rushed to my bag in the room to get my phone to call for help. I couldn’t manage to call anyone. We quickly went to the back door in the kitchen, as far away from the flames as possible. Getting there we discovered that the door and security door were both locked. I realised that the keys were in my bag in the room and that it was impossible to reach as the fire engulfed the whole area.
Underneath the security door was a small space of about 10 to 15cm, too small to get through. .
At first we just sat next to the door, thinking that was the end. The windows of the rooms started to explode because of the heat. Suddenly I realised that I could probably push Duandre through. With a struggle, him putting up a fight because he did not understand what was happening, I eventually got him out. I then laid on my tummy, trying to get through but only my head could fit under the door.
My left leg felt as if it was boiling and obviously the flames were coming closer to where we were. I gave up, thinking that at least my son was saved. He kept on calling out to me, saying: “Mommy, are you coming? Are you coming?” The next thing I know I was outside! How I got through, I have no idea! My arms were next to my body, there was nowhere to kick against or to pull on, but I got through. I believe that God saved me and made it possible for me to escape through too small a space underneath that security door.
In that chaos I got a Whatsapp from Chris asking if something was burning. The only reply, which we listened to afterwards, was a short, 2 second, shout, which was all I could manage at the time.
It was a really hard day to deal with, all kinds of mixed emotions rushed by – anger, at myself for how I handled everything, sometimes feeling that it may have been better if I didn’t survive at all, worrying about the trauma Duandre had to live through and how to deal with it afterwards. All along he just clung to us, curled up into a small ball.
That night we went to stay over with Chris’ parents, who lives on the same farm. Lying in bed that night, with Duandre sleeping peacefully, I felt a sudden presence in the room, opened my eyes but saw no one. I felt someone touching my face, in a reassuring way, as if to say that all will be well. The next day I enquired from everyone, no one came to my room or checked up on us. I believe the Holy Spirit came to comfort me, to answer my questions and to put my mind at ease. God had a plan and purpose with what happened to us. I do not believe the fire was God’s doing but that He used it to open many of our eyes and to draw us closer to Him. (Romans 8:28) At the end of that month Chris and I got engaged because through all of the trauma we realised that we were really in love, belonged together and wanted to be married asap. Two months later we got married and everything from that day forward just went well and easily fell into place.
People sometimes refer to a near death experience of going to heaven or hell and returning. I consider the day of the fire as my near death experience, a drastic wake-up call to get my affairs in order. God showed me that I needed direction, needed to reconsider my way forward. It was a necessary incident to shake me up. I still have the odd day when everything feels a bit sad and off and I just want to sulk for a while but all and all things are in order. Duandre really got over it all quite remarkably, in a short few days, he could talk about it and seems to have no permanent trauma or fears left because of that day. He went to a few play therapy sessions which really helped him work through the experience and to grow because of it. It could all have turned out much worse with him being burnt in the fire or worse one or both of us being killed in the fire. We have so much to be thankful for. The only physical hurt was that my back was cut from going out underneath the security door.
The interior of the house was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt but we are happily living in that same house with no fears left because of what happened. Sometimes, when I am home alone, I still get a bit of a strange flashback to that day and I have gone back to lie in front of the door to imagine how I could possibly have escaped through the narrow gap, only to, again and again, realise the impossibility and that only God could have saved me on that day!
I still recall how I grabbed Duandre and, holding him against my chest like a monkey would do with her baby, I crawled towards the lawn. Looking up I saw the workers running towards us and I clearly remember their kindness, help and care on that day. They could have shrugged it off, it being a weekend but they did all they could to help, getting water to the house, breaking windows to get to the fire on the inside and doing all they could to stop the burning.
The difference that faith makes to an experience like this is that, looking back, we do not focus on the traumatic event that happened, but on all the good that God made possible because of that day. Three months later we could move back into our house and we are ok. We all grew closer to God, Duandre grew and developed so much after this event in our lives and we can face our future together. A month after the fire I had a tuff time and just wanted to sulk and feel sorry for myself but God showed me that was not His pan for me, that I had to get up and go on to live the plan He has for our family.
All glory to God