Commentary: Notre Dame fire reminds us treasures aren’t forever

View from Quai de Montebello around 25 minutes into the fire; the spire is engulfed in flames

View from Quai de Montebello around 25 minutes into the fire; the spire is engulfed in flames

What has been lost? And can it ever be replaced? The heart and soul of Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral, reminds us that our greatest treasures are not permanent. The stone, wood and glass, 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece that withstood revolutions, wars, Nazis and time, erupted in flames and sickening smoke, shaking an entire country. Perhaps the greatest symbol of Christianity, Notre-Dame de Paris was not a relic, but a living and sacred place.

The bells throughout France toll to mourn the damage the fire caused, and ring for the miracle that so much was salvaged. Notre-Dame serves as a beacon of hope, a sanctuary where people are saved, sins are forgiven and history was lived. Thirteen million is the number of visitors that make the journey to visit the hallowed halls of Notre-Dame, each year.

It will be rebuilt. The promise of President Macron, with the help of several billionaires. Most of the treasures were saved. Some say the prayers of every Parisian and millions around the world was what stopped the blaze. With the help of 400 fire-fighters.

Many years ago, a massive and old Maple tree that was in my parent’s front yard was dying. It was losing leaves and the bark turned an ugly gray. My childhood memories were intertwined with that tree and the branches that held me, my brother and friends. The huge canopy of dark green leaves shaded us in summer. We threw ropes over the thick limbs and fastened slats of wood to make the best tree swings in the neighborhood.

If people were coming to our house, we could tell them to look for the huge maple tree and turn in the driveway. It was part of our family, it seemed. A living, breathing reminder of the majesty of nature, the strength of it branches were signs of encouragement that we could grow strong too. It was an “always there” part of our little plot of land and graced the views we had from our living room windows.

We had “tree doctors” come out to try to revive our beloved Maple. But sadly, it could not be saved. My mother cried, but my father pointed out, “nothing lasts forever.” So very true. But the landmarks in our lives cannot be lost so easily. The mind cannot always comprehend what reality is telling us.

Notre-Dame Cathedral is the tree of life to Parisians. The place that took over 200 years to build, to make a monument to God, with a spire so high that it might have reached to heaven. It is gone now. Yet, there is good news. The great organ with its 8000 pipes, built in 1730, has survived. So has the Crown of Thrones, plus other artifacts. Remarkably, the cross and alter remain, standing in the midst of the ashes.

France is experiencing tumultuous times. Can the tragedy of this fire unify a nation? Disasters do bring people together, to grieve collectively for what was lost. Maybe nothing lasts forever, so we rebuild, replant and carry on.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.

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