Meet Justina, and take a peak into the moment her life was dramatically changed forever.
As a child of God it is hard to believe that something horrible can happen to you. But when the unimaginable happens how does it affect your perception of God? How does it affect your perception of yourself?
At the crack of dawn on March 7, 1999, our family faced an unimaginable nightmare.
Me, my husband and six sons awoke to explosions, smoke, and utter darkness. The house was on fire.
Our family was jolted from our peaceful bliss and thrown into chaos in a home totally engulfed with flames. The sound of appliances exploding was deafening. The heat and stench threw us into confusion and shock.
My husband, James, began frantically jumping in and out of windows, desperate to save me and our young children. The three oldest boys grabbed their younger autistic brother and waited at a pre-designated point for their father.
I was the first to be dropped from a window, and I was hysterical. I reentered the inferno, determined to reach my twenty-two-month-old twin boys. I was pinned by a large, burning, oak bookshelf that fell on me. I was trapped, burning, and unable to speak above a whisper. My husband saw me under the bookshelf and shoved me out our bedroom window again.
I crawled from the window to the front lawn, leaving pieces of burned flesh as I went. My hands were so badly injured that I could no longer use them to support myself. I shouted from the edge of the street where a neighbor was steadying me by pressing her head to mine.
“I have six sons! Get my babies!”
But the count of sons who made it out never reached six.
The house collapsed before my husband was able to get our son Amos out. He died in the fire.
Amos’s twin, Benjamin, and I were severely injured.
I drifted in and out of oblivion. The paramedics tried their best to rouse me. “Breathe,” one of them said. “Please breathe, baby!”
Tears were falling down his face. That can’t be good, I thought. I heard panic in his voice.
Then I heard another voice, an unearthly voice, the cry of a fearful, wild animal. But it was Benjamin’s voice.
I could not bear the thought of Benjamin feeling the horrific pain I was experiencing.
I passed out, succumbing to utter darkness.
I awoke from a six-week coma, intubated, disoriented, and in excruciating pain. I plummeted into a full-blown panic attack. The fire! Who lived? Who died? Do I have a home? The pain was severe; it hurt to think. I wanted to talk, but I was unable to. I had lost the ability to do anything on my own. I was dependent on everyone for everything. My orderly world was out of control, and I was not in command of anything.
I had lost every earthly possession I owned. Most excruciating was the loss of my precious 22-month twin son Amos. Everything in my life as I had known it had turned into ashes. Residue of a past life of joy turned to deep sorrow.
Despair said I was nothing. I had to reach deep to clothe myself. I knew I was a fighter, but I never had to fight at this level before. I was a woman of faith; the horror of the devastation brought that to the surface. I loved my kids. I had run through and not away from fire to save them. I loved and trusted my husband. He was a source of consolation daily. I loved Jesus. I trusted him to bring me through. I was blessed. The evidence was everywhere.
I have now shed the layers of pain, anger, unforgiveness, fear, and guilt. Beneath that skin is a more stable, wise, and thankful person. My faith is intact and as strong as ever. Life is wonderful, not because trials have never come my way nor because I believe they will never surface again. Rather, life is perfect simply because I have it. I feel better prepared for it.
Who we really are is normally buried under visible things, such as clothes, friends, status, and accomplishments. A burn trauma has a way of stripping you bare, showing you for the person you really are. I found myself lying in a hospital bed, owning nothing but my integrity. After the fire destroyed my home and ravished my body, who was I then? I was known to be the lady who loved purple, an enviable homemaker, and a confidant. But when I owned nothing, and purple didn’t matter, when I didn’t have the ability to take care of my household, and couldn’t shoulder a burden for the life of me, who was I then?
I was more than my ashes. In Christ we are more than conquerors. All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose~ Romans 8:28. But it is work.
Never let the trials of this life dictate defeat. If your world has been set on fire and all you see is the ashes of defeat…take courage. You are not your ashes. Stand on top of the pile and build again.
Justina has dedicated herself to helping families affected by burn trauma. She is the founder and Executive Director of The Amos House of Faith, a nonprofit organization established to provide post burn support to children and families affected by burn trauma. She’s also the author of The Circle of Fire, a journey of discovering that personal tragedy is not a life sentence to despair, anger, and continual pain and suffering. Instead, it is a discovery of how something positive can be salvaged from every agonizing experience, even when your faith has truly been tried by fire. You can find out more about Justina and The Amos House of Faith at justinapage.com and theamoshouse.org.