This past week they tore down the old house next door. It was a dilapidated white house that hadn’t been lived in for at least thirty years, maybe more. Although some people came faithfully every week to mow the lawn, the house itself was not taken care of. A few years ago, the roof began to sag. This past year, a whole section of the roof caved in.
Last week a couple of men in pickup trucks stopped by. They looked important. They began walking around the house, inspecting it, and conferring with each other. At one point they opened the outside trap door that leads to the basement and peered down into the darkness. One man even ventured into the basement. I know I wouldn’t have gone down there for anything. After thirty years, who knows what kind of animals were down there? Mice? Raccoons? Skunks? Snakes? Alligators? (I have a vivid imagination!)
Then last Thursday about 8:00 in the morning, a huge piece of equipment arrived. I called it a “steam shovel” (thus revealing my age!), but I know now it was an excavator. One man stood inside the big shovel. The operator lifted him up so he could cut the two wires that were still connected to the house. (It reminded me of cutting an umbilical cord!) With minutes the large excavator began to demolish the house. It moved jerkily like a dinosaur as it attacked the roof first. The shovel with its steel “teeth” devoured the roof in minutes. Then the machine pushed the sides of the house in–effortlessly. I saw and heard the windows shatter. I had to leave that morning, but when I got home in the afternoon the whole house was just a pile of rubble. The next day, trucks came and carried the debris away while the excavator filled in the hole where the basement had been. Then the workers planted grass, spreading straw over it.
I had several thoughts as I observed the demolition of this house. First, demolition work is certainly quicker than construction work. With a house as well as other endeavors, it’s easier to tear down than to build. Secondly, when I saw the huge boulders in the basement, I wondered: “Who brought those boulders there—and how—and when?” Most of the houses in our part of town are century homes. Our house, for example, was built in 1848. How much hard work went into building that house? How many harsh Chardon winters had it withstood?
The demolition crew found a bicycle in the basement. This made me wonder about the people who had called that house “home.” How many families had lived in it? Who were they? Where were they now?
Grass will soon sprout where the house once stood, a visible reminder to me of the transitoriness of all things. Old houses are demolished. Trees are chopped down to build shopping malls. Small mountains are moved to create highways. And I writing this reflection am transitory too. And so are you reading it. Life is fleeting, ever changing. That fact makes our lives here on earth all the more precious. The truth is, we don’t have all the time in the world. We have only the time our Good God has given us.
What are you doing with your transitory and precious life?