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A year ago, one of my best friends and her two boys died in an accidental fire. It seems that food was left on the stove and forgotten, or maybe she thought she turned the burner off, but it didn’t click all the way. Maybe one of her boys bumped it on by accident. We’ll never know, because the smoke alarms that could have saved their lives didn’t have batteries in them. And so Syndea and her boys perished, tragically, in the middle of a chilly Spring night.

I think of them often, and they are missed by so many. I do not judge her for not keeping batteries in her alarms. I know plenty of people, myself included, who have never made it a priority to test and replace the batteries consistently. And what about those who tend to burn what they cook? Who get tired of that alarm going off night after night, seemingly mocking their lack of culinary skills. So they yank the battery out, maybe shove the alarm in a drawer, thinking, “I’m careful. Nothing’s gonna happen here.”

But it can. It can happen, and quickly. Say, on a night when you’re tired after that long shift at work, after caring for your two rambunctious boys all evening, and knowing that you have to be up so very early the next morning. You fall asleep with your oldest next to you, your youngest sleeping in the living room maybe, or perhaps he wanders out there after you’re deep asleep. One way or another, something is left on the stove and it catches fire. And all three of you are gone.

Syndea was a good-hearted person, smart and capable. She simply made a mistake, one that is fairly common. So I’m promising myself that I will test and maintain the alarms in my house, and I’m asking that everyone I know, anyone who reads this, please do the same, and pass the message on. For your families, your loved ones, and for Syndea, Cade and Trevor. <3