A New Beginning

Written by Hollye Dexter

I am up this morning before the dawn, taking inventory of this day, of my life and what it means to me. In the past, this was always my worst time of year. I struggled with depression, fighting off the darkness that returned to my heart every November as the days became dark and cold winds howled, reminding me that sixteen years ago today, we almost lost our lives in a fire.
On November 19, 1994, we were being released from the hospital in our blackened greasy pajamas. The nurse came into our room, removed our oxygen masks and cheerily told us, “Your carbon monoxide levels have leveled out. You can go home now!” Troy and I stared at each other in disbelief, as I held my four year old son Taylor tight against me, and looked at his sooty, tear-stained face. We had no home. We had no possessions. We didn’t even have shoes. Our daughter had been at a sleepover, and had no idea. We would have to tell her soon that as we slept that night, an electrical fire began in the walls of the house, that we were trapped by raging flames and had to jump out second story windows onto cement below.
Troy was on crutches. I had burns on my back and arms. After throwing my four year old out the window to Troy, I was the last one out before the explosions started. We could not get back inside to save our pets. Whitney, Lady, Munchkin, Angel and Bunny were gone.
Later, I wrote this poem about that morning.

November 19, 1994
The Destroyer
The destroyer has come
And left nothing in its wake
Men in plastic coats
Trudge through the ashes
Moving clumsily
Over the corpses of our dreams
That still smolder
And stink up the morning sky

Shell-shocked, charred and broken
We stand at the side of the road
Tears resolve nothing
But only serve to wash away
The last traces
Of what we were
Changing us forever
But cleansing nothing

What was the meaning
of all that meaning
If only to be stripped from our canvas
Exposing a vast emptiness
Of all possibility and no possibility
Beckoning but not inviting
It awaits

I stand motionless, no palette in hand
Silence pervades
Even the angry voices in my head
Are quiet now
False optimism is offered freely
I swallow every last drop

Clutching it like a crucifix
I face the cold and distant unknowing
Wearing it like a warm coat
I take my first steps
Blind and shivering
as a newborn babe
I begin again
I am alive.

This morning as I woke, I didn’t feel depressed. I felt with every cell in my body that yes, I am alive. And after the nightmare of a year we’ve had, I am wide awake. I know this life is a gift, and I will not squander a moment of it. Today is a new beginning. I vow to step into my own shoes, and own this life I’ve been given. No more hiding behind insecurities and fear. I am stepping in, leaning into it with everything I’ve got.

From now on, November 19th marks the anniversary of my new life, my very best life.

No looking back, only looking forward…
So much beauty lies ahead, I just know it.

You May Also Like…

You Listened

How many times had you crept into their rooms at night and pressed your face against them to hear the soft hiss of...

Read More

Why I Still Have Hope for America

These days, I wake in the morning weary with sadness. The world, politics, fear for my country has worn me down. But...

Read More

Meeting my Muslim Neighbors

Islamic Society of West Valley/ Inter-faith dinnerLast week, my eleven-year old son Evan confided in me that he’s been...

Read More


  1. Anonymous

    Hollye, this is a powerful story. I am so glad you were able to share it with those of us who are new to your palette and know nothing of this time. Yo9u are one strong person and I love your writing and you.

  2. Beverlee

    Holls- I know what it took for you to share this. You are amazing, brave & beautiful. Your poem is so poignant & moving. Happy anniversary my dear friend! I love you!

  3. Anonymous

    Amen Amen AWOMAN!! Hope shines through. Totally LOVED the poem, bombdiggity girl. xox

  4. laurenne

    Awwwww! Such tears and chills right now.
    I am in awe of your life and how you choose to learn from it every day.
    LOVE IT!
    New life.

  5. Denise Tremaine

    Hollye, what a powerful statement, and how wonderful to turn something so devastating into a life lesson on the true meaning of what is important….I'm so happy that you have found peace in the midst of such a loss…thanks for sharing your beautiful, profound, touching and moving words….

  6. Kathleen

    Hollye: Just the thought of a fire frightens me. My heart was pounding reading this post. It brought me to a friend who lost her husband and two children in a house fire. I am relieved for you that you can how share that horror and loss but more special that you all are here with us to enjoy and embrace each day best we all can. You are a model of that strength. It shines and extends itself to your entire family and to all who read your blog plus the ones who have the pleasure of knowing you.
    Peace. I am so thankful to know you even if only via FB.

  7. Judith van Praag

    Dear Holley,
    After reading the above post and your poem about the tragic event that informed the past 16 years of hour life; after reading about your decision to live life to the utmost, make the very best of the one life that's been given, I understand better where you were coming from when you wrote the lovely comment to my post Scarred for Life at Shape of a Woman. Thank you for those caring words. You are right, by sharing our truths our reality shifts. We are never the same after that.

  8. Deb and Barbara

    Hollye, if not for the link you sent, I would've missed this post. I don't know how. I so try to keep on top of all your posts and look forward to them soooo much.

    But here I am today, reading about the powerful moments in your life that you always manage to turn into such beautiful prose and heartfelt emotion. Such a story! and such an amazing poem. Love you!!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *