One of my dearest friends had a storage unit at Red Dot Storage in Tillman’s Corner. If you’ve watched the news in the past two months, you are aware that a massive fire consumed the majority of the storage facility. Unfortunately, Becky’s unit was one of the heavily damaged ones. It was actually a total loss.
For two months, she waited to be given permission to return to the unit to assess the damage and collect anything that was salvageable. Last Thursday was the day that she put on steel-toed boots and work gloves to sift through the rubble. That rubble was to be her new beginning after she downsized her current home. Her idea was to put everything that she wanted to keep in the storage unit and then have an estate sale, knowing that every item that seriously mattered to her was a few miles away in climate-controlled storage.
She lost a lot. Pictures, jewelry, family heirlooms, antique furniture and childhood mementos were all lost. She did manage to find two advertisement plates that her grandfather used to promote his Birmingham law office in the 1940s. Somehow those plates and two ceramic figurines managed to survive a fire that was hot enough to melt a vintage Pyrex dish. She found a round marble top that had been on a coffee table. What was marble disintegrated when she touched it. There was hardware for dressers, but there were no dressers.
I know that nothing is meant to last forever, but losing such precious things is traumatic and heartbreaking. I’ve never given much thought to storage units or the items and stories contained within until recently. Watching the news coverage of the ones who lost items due to the fire at Red Dot opened my eyes and made me think about things differently.
One of the things that I think is so important is backing photographs up digitally. I have been filling Facebook with photo albums for years and I will continue to do so. Google Photos and Walgreens are other methods I employ to secure my pictures, because pictures are my favorite things. Becky’s experience has made me think about old family pictures that aren’t digital. I really need to either scan them or take some quality pictures of those.
Although I realize the importance of documentation for work, for finances, for medical reasons and for my kids, I really have not considered how important it is to document belongings. Thankfully, she had extra insurance on the items in her unit. The problem is that she cannot remember every item that was in there. Attempting to list these items after the trauma of the fire has been problematic for her. Documenting items is easier now than it has ever been! Most of us just don’t do it! Electronic receipts show the amount that was paid for the items purchased. It is easy to take a cell phone video in various rooms of our homes to document the brands of electronics, appliances and furnishings that we own. It’s a good thought.
I cannot imagine what it is like to be forced to literally sift through the ashes of what was once your life. Some of you have been there. You know that heartbreak and that sense of loss. I’m sure you, like Becky, got a lot of well-intended advice that you did not seek. It’s easy to say things like, “Move forward” or “It’s just stuff” when it isn’t you that suffered a loss.
Walking through this time with my friend has reminded me that although nothing is meant to last forever, losing the things that matter still hurts. I’ve also been reminded to take stock of all the blessings, (but not just the material ones) I have been given on a regular basis.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.