I'd chosen a ring, I'd ordered a personalised ring box, I'd arranged for our first Couples trip in less than a fortnight's time to end with a private dinner on the beach at CN where I'd ask my gorgeous girlfriend Gemma to be my wife.
But then I got a phone call on Monday while I was at work. There'd been a fire at the house. It had started in the bedroom and had caused a lot of smoke damage to all of the upstairs part of the house. I phoned Gemma who was also at work to tell her and after hanging up remembered that I'd hidden the ring in the bedroom ready for packing.
The 90 minute journey home from the middle of London was spent with so many thoughts spinning around my mind - How badly damaged was the house? How long would it take to make it inhabitable again? Was the ring damaged? Would an unsuspecting fireman find it in the ashes and in all innocence tell Gemma (who I knew would be home an hour before me) that they'd found it? What state were the holiday clothes in (laid out in the guest room ready to be packed)?
There was also a silent prayer thanking God that it hadn't happened 12 hours earlier or 12 hours later as that really didn't bare thinking about.
By the time I got home, the firemen had left and Gemma was already busy on the phone to the insurance company. I went into the house and could immediately smell the acrid smoke that had penetrated every surface it touched. I could see the water stains on the walls and carpets as I went upstairs, and the windows were blackened and cracked from the heat. Despite the fire having been out for a couple of hours and the crisp March air being allowed through the open windows, the heat that remained was oppressive. It was so black in the bedroom I could barely believe that night had not yet fallen but could see enough that the drawer I'd hidden the ring in didn't seem to be damaged.
I found the ring and was glad that the flames & smoke hadn't damaged it. I put it in my pocket and looked at the rest of the house. I couldn't believe how far the smoke had reached and how much damage it caused (the flames had only affected a small corner of the main bedroom).
Some of Gemma's other jewellery hadn't been as lucky - a necklace and earing set I'd bought her for our first Valentine's Day together had been destroyed and there was no trace of rings she'd inherited from her grandmothers.
I went back down and found Gemma just coming off the phone. We hugged each other and at that moment I knew that I was going to be asking her to marry me a little sooner than I had originally planned - I just needed to work out what the new "when & where" would be.
Once the house was secure we went to buy something to wear over the next few days and then on to a small hotel that had a late cancellation meaning we could have a room for the night.
Once we'd showered & changed into something that didn't stink of smoke we went down to the restaurant for some dinner. The restaurant has a great reputation locally and the menu certainly looked like we were in a for a great meal.
We were given a table in a quiet corner of the restaurant. The waiter took our order and brought us each a glass of champagne on the house because he "knew we'd had a bad day". As soon as he gave us the champagne I realised that the new "when & where" was here & now......or should that be here & in a couple of minutes after getting the ring from our room! I made an excuse about leaving something in the room and went to get it.
I walked back to the table with the ring in my pocket and we both started to enjoy the champagne. While we were talking I took the ring box from my trouser pocket and opened it with one hand under the table.
I told Gemma that there was something I'd been thinking about doing in Jamaica, but had decided to do it a little early. I took the ring from under the table and (with the surprise clear to see on her face) asked her to marry me.
After catching her breath she accepted and the enjoyment of the moment helped us to enjoy the wonderful food even more.
Monday's events really brought home how much of the things we have are exactly that - just things. All of those things can be replaced (thankfully with the help of insurance) but what is irreplaceable is the love we have for each other and that's why we are so thankful that the fire hadn't happened while we were asleep. If it had, there's very little chance that either of us would be here today.
We're still going to have the beach dinner at CN to celebrate our engagement (if the ring is back from being re-sized before we leave I'll ask again in the way I originally planned)and the 2 weeks we'll be there from March 13 will certainly be a holiday that's even more welcome than it was going to be.
With any luck we'll be able to move back into the house when we get back from CN and start thinking about getting married in a couple of years time.
I know that many (if not all) of you reading this will be happy for us - both for our safety and for our engagement. I thank you for those kind thoughts and offer a final tip for any of you who are unfortunate enough to suffer a house fire - it can definitely be worth sifting through the ashes for those small items of sentimental value. We found Gemma's rings that we thought were destroyed when we started to tidy up yesterday!!!
wow.. what an incredible story. I'm so sorry for the fire but sometimes those tragedies help us to remember what is REALLY important in life. Congrats on your engagement and enjoy your vacation to CN!!
Wow! First of all, thank God you both were gone at the time and unharmed! And secondly, thanks for sharing such a beautiful, touching story! Best wishes to both of you for a lasting marriage full of irreplacable love!
All I can express is wow as well as think, what a day you had! Congratulations on your engagement. Wishing you many years of happiness and an abundance of God's blessings. Enjoy your holiday @ CN! Razzl
God bless that no one was hurt,congrats on your engagement and may the rest of your lives be less traumatic. Use the time at CN to relax, so that when you come home you can take care of what needs to be done.
We aren't too sure - it was either a radio alarm clock or the base unit for the cordless phone that was on a small chest of drawers next to our bed. Whatever it was smouldered down through the chest of drawers and eventually started to burn the bed.
The insurance company are dragging their heels a bit and it now looks like we'll be out of the house for a couple of weeks once we get back from CN, but it's not something we're going to worry about too much.
Thanks to all of you for your kind thoughts. Becks - I'm sure we'll see you at CN when you get there!
You are both so lucky to have each other and come through such an ordeal. We feel sure you will have happy memories built on the strong foundation you have already started to build. Congratulations on your engagement and we wish you both every happiness for your future life together. And if times get tough, which they can in relationships, remember the beginning! much love. Mrs Jekyll and Mr Hyde (married 26 year in May) xxxxx
Richgem, Many congratulations on your engagement. We are so sorry to hear what happened, but elated that you are both safe and well (including the ring(s)). We have witnessed the devastation a fire can cause as we have worked on a fire victim support service with the fire service in our area in the UK for four years and have been there to support people such as yourselves. We hope that you will both have a fabulous time at Couples Negril as I know we have as we return May 9 for our second visit. Take care and our love and thoughts are with you both. Mrs Jekyll and Mr Hyde (married 26 years on May 26th) xx