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When I was about twelve-years-old, I heard someone say that everyone’s life was like their very own song. I didn’t know what it meant, but I thought about it many times, wondering if I had a song and if I did, what it was. It was years later before it occurred to me that each of us really does seem to have a ‘song’ that we sing throughout our lives – it is the theme of our deepest beliefs and the values of our lives. Without even realizing it, our song resonates from us into the lives of all those we encounter.
The first person I ever knew who undoubtedly had his own song was my father. His song has been a guide and a blessing to me my entire life and has helped to settle me when I have felt unsure or afraid. I have shared his song to many others in their times of need – to my husband, our children, and friends when each was going through difficult experiences.
Most of the time, when my father’s song came into my mind, it was a cappella. But there have been a few times when his song came into my heart and soul with full orchestration.
It was such a simple song – just five words long: “Good will come from this.” I had heard him speak those words countless times in my life. They were rooted so deeply in my heart and mind that it never occurred to me that others didn’t think as my father did or believe what he had taught us – that good can come out of every experience we have.
I wasn’t with my dad during one of the most heartbreaking experiences of his life – the night our home exploded and burned in upstate New York. I was 2,000 miles away with my husband and two little children in our apartment in Provo, Utah. But I have heard the story told so many times it is as if I have memories of it myself.
My dad was a builder. He was also a visionary man who saw unused space in anyone’s home as a way they could supplement their income by turning that space into an apartment.
The beautiful home that my father had built for our family years earlier had been remodeled several times since my oldest sister left for college. As each of us moved away or were married, Dad turned another section of the house into an apartment, until there were five apartments in our large home, plus my parent’s residence.
On November 10, 1970, my 16-year-old brother Bill had just returned home from basketball practice. As he walked across the front lawn, he thought he could detect a faint smell of natural gas. One of the boys who lived in the front apartment was outside on the lawn, and Bill asked him if their gas stove was on. The boy said it wasn’t, and Bill went into the house.
He read a note Mom had left for him, explaining that she and Dad had gone to the annual dinner of her business-women’s organization. She emphasized that Bill was to stay home that night – as it was a school night. Bill ate his dinner and sat down to watch TV. About 8:30 pm, a friend called and asked him if he wanted to shoot some pool.
Bill knew Mom had said to stay home – but the next day wasn’t a school day – it was Veteran’s Day. He reasoned that Mom had forgotten about that and decided she wouldn’t care if he went out after all. That decision probably saved his life.
The pool hall was just two blocks from our home, so Bill walked down the street to join his friends. He had only been there a few minutes when he heard the fire alarm go off in the center of our small town. We had a volunteer fire department, and within a few minutes, the first truck left. The boys saw it leave but had no idea where it was going.
A few minutes later, another friend arrived and told Bill there were fire trucks in front of his house. They ran out onto the sidewalk, saw the fire trucks down the street, and Bill took off running. When he got to the house, he saw the light blue flame – this was no ordinary fire – it was a natural gas fire. The firemen reported that when they arrived, the ground from the edge of the house to the curb was blazing.
For weeks, the road on the main street through our town
had been torn up, as the city was putting in sewer lines. On the day of the
fire, they were working across the street from our house. As the details of
that day came to light in the coming months, it became evident that a
construction worker, while digging the trench for the sewer pipes, had
inadvertently hit the gas line that went under the road and fed gas to our
home. He realized he had hit the line and stopped to look it, but it did not
appear to be damaged, and so they continued
, unaware that the gas
line had been pulled out of its fitting under our front porch. The gas was
slowly seeping into the ground and eventually filtered into the
When the furnace clicked on at 8:40 PM, just a few minutes after Bill had left, the gas-filled basement ignited, and the house exploded. The force of the blast was so great that it blew the front bay window and casing out of the house, and it landed on the lawn across the street. A second bay window on the side of the house was also blown out and landed about thirty feet away with the glass still intact.
Of the six apartments in our home, there was only one couple in the house at the time of the explosion. They were newlyweds who had been married just 18 days and lived in the upstairs back apartment. The force of the blast pushed my parent’s dining room wall across their stairs, blocking their exit. Their apartment quickly filled with smoke and got very hot. They yelled out the window to alert the man who ran the service station next door. He brought a ladder to their window, and they escaped. The fire chief later reported that they did not know the couple had been able to escape until an hour after the explosion.
Three other tenants were visiting friends that night, and the last couple was at the hospital, awaiting the birth of their first child.
Someone went to the restaurant where my parents were dining and told them the shocking news. They hurried back to town, fearing for their son, who had been told not to leave the house.
By this time, there were so many fire trucks and emergency vehicles on Main Street that it was difficult to get through. The road had been blocked off about two blocks from our house, so my parents had to park their car and run down the street. They stood on a neighbor’s lawn and watched their home as it burned, unable to comprehend how this could have happened.
Bill later wrote in a letter to me, “I can see Dad standing there beside me, wearing his black cashmere coat and Stetson hat, with a cigar in his mouth, watching everything we had done in the last ten years burn to the ground. Dad put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Good will come from this, Bill,” and I thought to myself, “That’s Dad – seeing the best in the worst of every situation.”
The damage to the house was extensive. Although most of the frame of the house remained standing, the interior was destroyed. It did not turn out to be a clear-cut case of who was responsible for the explosion. The gas company and the construction company fought each other for years, each stating that the other was to blame. After four years of negotiations, they received only a fraction of the value of the house.
Despite his ongoing belief that good would come from this, the fire and loss of his home, as well as much of his livelihood from the rental units, took a toll on my dad. The next few years found him struggling with what may have been mild depression, as he started all over again. After my brother’s high school graduation and acceptance into the Air Force, my parents moved to California to be closer to my sister and her son.
My mom, who was an executive secretary, found a good job there and Dad, now in his sixties, went back to school to become a massage therapist. A few years later he became the President of Los Angeles Massage Therapists Association. He told me once that had they not lost the house, all the good he was able to do for people from studying the healing art of massage would never had happened.
Believing that good will come from every crisis or painful experience we face in life does not necessarily change the outcome. It doesn’t erase the suffering, but it does seem to make the suffering easier to bear. And rather than casting a deeper pall over an already difficult time, the very words somehow lead us towards light and hope and possibilities.
Believing that “good will come from this” does not mean that everything that happens to us is good. It is, however, a belief that even in our darkest and most difficult days, there are built-in lessons that can prepare us for the future.
My dad believed it meant having faith that there was a higher power at work in our lives and trusting that power to help us learn and grow from every challenge and heartache we face.
He taught this belief to us from our earliest childhood, shared it with others in their times of pain and suffering, and did not question its truth during his own trials. He never doubted that the power of God was stronger than anything that could happen to us and that we were always being led in the direction of our own best good.
I have heard songs in my life that have stirred my soul and vividly brought back experiences and emotions of another time and place. I have heard melodies that have filled me with memories of great joy and terrible heartache.
But the most profoundly moving song I have ever experienced had no notes and no melody. It was, however, a song of hope – an anthem of belief – and it resounds today from the deepest part of my soul. It is a song of just five words – “good will come from this.”
It was the song of my father.
Portions of this article were taken from Chris Hall’s book, The Song of My Father (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort, Inc. 2015). Used by permission.