Lemonade Out of Burnt Lemons

“Wake up! Wake up! Someone is at the door!” These are the words I heard as my wife nudged me violently while in a sound sleep at 4 a.m. “Someone is at the door? What?” I hustled to my feet in a daze and gently cracked the door open. “The back is on fire,” are the words uttered from my neighbor.  “What?” “The back is on fire.” I shut the door and ran through the living room, dining room, and to the back, sliding glass door to see my entire garage engulfed in flames. The roof had a new vent and the flames fled out of the garage door, pulled in back over the roof, and through the vent, feeding the fire like a scene from Backdraft.  I ran inside to get the kids and wife, but she had already gathered them to safety, next door with the neighbors and was on the phone with the fire department. I returned to the back porch, sat down, and watched as my heart sank. 

In order to understand the devastation a bit more, I must go back in time to three months prior to the fire.  My business was starting to pick up and more opportunities were presenting themselves.  Since the detached garage had already been converted into a dusty dungeon of a man cave and I didn’t want to rent an office space, I figured it was time my goals matched my environment.  Over a span of three months, I stripped the garage bare of all amenities and cleaned from top to bottom with a small hand-held brush. From floor to ceiling, I made sure every inch was addressed and covered myself in a second and third layer of skin made from dirt.  I followed that up by priming the floor with concrete primer and then painting it a deep black.  Once dry, I added a streak of red paint throughout the cracks in the concrete floor and drizzled various colors of glitter setting the stage for a deep cosmic experience. Adding a layer of gloss, I let it rest to complete the structure.  All furnishings were then added, including a new flat screen, a powerful computer for video processing, and a mural completed by my wife.  This office space had everything.  It contained my library, my work station, research and credentials. It held a couch, table and flat screen. I added a space dedicated to meditation and my podcast and video production equipment. The cherry on top, it had a bathroom!  This was the ultimate office / man cave and I felt accomplished, ready to expand my business.

I think you can understand now why it was such a huge loss in my life.  The only thing I owned, that was mine, inside the house, were clothes. Everything else I had was in that garage. All the kid’s toys; a power wheel, basketball hoop, bikes, trampoline, various balls and cars, were all burnt to a crisp.  Luckily, the garage was detached, and it never reached the house (always remember your blessings in a tragedy). As we cleared the debris throughout the month, from what the firefighters stated was an electrical fire, there was one last remanence of the horrors of that night.  Our lemon tree was scarred. It had become a burn survivor. This tree produced hundreds of lemons over the year and did right by my family and friends.  All its leaves were brown and frayed.  The lemons that were just starting to show, shrunk to the size of a golf ball with brown burn marks on the side of the lemon that faced the garage.  It was almost like the lemon tried to retreat into the branch from which it came.  That was a last stinging blow. 

Months went by trying to autocorrect the path of the business in the face of losing all my resources.  The tree was a forgotten relic we accepted as dead. For death only comes to those willing to submit.  The tree was not done. It slowly but surely took in every ounce of water and sun to rebuild from the inside out.  The result… six months later, those shriveled baby lemons had expanded to full size in a beautiful bright yellow with a brown birthmark on its side (actual lemon in blog title picture).   

I don’t even want to cut it open.  I want to preserve it for all time as a symbol of resilience.  This tree and its lemons taught me a few things about life that I would love to share.

1.      Nothing can stop you unless you allow it. Death is not just about our heart stopping. Death comes to us all in many forms, but how we go out, how we decided to face the grim reaper is up to us. You may be surprised to find out that you can beat, not cheat, but beat the death in life. 

2.      Hold strong to what you do. Never give up on your gift. This trees purpose was to fruit. That is what it did and will continue to do.  No matter what you face, keep grinding, keep maneuvering and finding new ways. It is only a matter of time before your tree bears fruit.

3.      Resiliency comes from within.  We will have moments where we shrink and go back into ourselves.  The good news is that lets us know we can also expand and grow into ourselves.  Stay strong, shrink when you must, especially for safety like the lemon, but remember to grow into your full potential.

It’s funny how life works.  Since the burning of that garage, I rented out an actual office space, decreased my time spent with vices in the garage, and my business is at its newest peak with many more to come. For these lessons, for the tree that gave me life and fed my family and friends, for those that received a message from this post or read for fun, I am grateful.  Thank you to my wife for suggesting I write this post.

Antonio Harrison