This day in 2009, bush fires ravaged through the north of country Victoria. In total, 173 people lost their lives and 414 people were injured. 70 people out of the 173 people lived within the Whittlesea-Kinglake Ranges Parish.
This is also the day when our beloved St. Peter's Memorial Church was destroyed by fire. Eight years on, recovery of the loses are still going on, and the combined Churches in Kinglake are working together to make a contribution to assist in the recovery efforts.
When the bush fires engulfed Kinglake and other parts of the region in 2009, I was the Parish Priest at St. Alban's Church in North Melbourne, I remember very well how a thought to be physically present with the people who were caught up in the fires completely overwhelmed me. That thought remained with me over the intervening years, and I didn’t realise its significance until I was appointed the parish priest here in September last year.
In my conversations with people, I have discovered how much the unanswered questions and yet-to-heal wounds and scars that were created by the loss of loved ones, property and livestock to the fires continue to influence the way we experience life at present. This is reality for us! How we can honestly and meaningfully answer the questions and heal our wounds are the tasks before us. At present, we feel our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces broken, faded, missing or completely lost.
However, as we continue to cherish with love all those whom we’d lost, and allow the wounds to heal by answering the hard questions and issues we grapple with, we may be able to able to put the jigsaw of our lives together. The loved ones we’d lost want us to do this – they want us know the life they’d shared with us was, indeed, a gift. If we do this, I know, from where they are now, they will fill-in the missing parts in a special way…