When we lived in California, I would – very often – say to Michael on a Sunday afternoon, “Let’s go to Dairy Queen and get an ice cream…” It was across town.

Most Sunday afternoons in California are very pleasant in the spring, summer and fall and even a large part of the winter. But we would always set out in the middle of the afternoon…a very pleasant time…lazy, hazy, perfect weather Sunday afternoon in Northern California. We would sometimes take our motorcycles but most often we would just jump in the car and ride through the couple of neighborhoods between our house and the Dairy Queen. We lived in a typical California suburban neighborhood…sloping streets, palm trees, clean and pleasant.

One Sunday we jumped in the car and rode through the neighborhoods as we always did. Families were out, kids were playing in the street and in the parks. We passed one house where they were setting up a bar-be-que in the backyard. It was a corner house so you could see it from the street. The kids were in the yard playing ball and the young dad and a friend were setting up the tables and chairs and starting the grill.

We moseyed through the streets and over to the Dairy Queen. We ate our ice creams in the car while commenting on everyone else. It was a typical, pleasant DQ California day.

We slowly made our way home and as we came upon the house where they were having a barbeque, the house was now engulfed in flames. The entire back of the house was on fire and the flames were shooting up past the second story of the house. The dad and his friend who had been happily starting the grill not a half hour before were now shirtless and frantically slapping at the flames with their shirts while the children ran wildly into the street.

Traffic stopped in both directions and people (including us) were getting out to see if we could help. When we heard the fire trucks we all scrambled to move our cars. As the fire trucks came down the street the fire just rushed across the roof and down to the front of the house. It was a fast moving, raging fire that had grown, quickly, to unbelievable proportions.

What had been a placid and happy picture a short time before had now turned into a horror show.

Rather than rubberneck and be in the way, we made our way home silently. As we pulled into the garage Michael looked at me and said, “One minute you’re cooking some burgers and the next minute you’re watching everything you own go up in flames. How does that happen?”

This journey with cancer reminds me so much of that day sometimes. We were just going to put some burgers on. Then the house was burning down.

You just never know.

You never ever know.