FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Adnes Ceasar, center, holds her nephew Kamdlem Ceasar as her daughter Inawei Raymond and nephew Jaycea Ceasar join her in the back yard of their house in Aiea. Adnes Ceasar's son, John Rex, died in a fire at their previous home in Salt Lake in November. The family, originally from Chuuk, is renting the Aiea house but has to make payments on the burned one.
Family rising from ashes of tragic house fire
With an outpouring of support and donations from the local community, it was easy for Adnes Ceasar and her family to deal with the loss of their home in a fire last month.
But on Christmas yesterday it was harder than ever for Ceasar to also cope with the loss of her 4-year-old son, John Rex, who would have turned 5 on Dec. 18.
"On his birthday it started getting bad, but especially on Christmas, when we're preparing to go out and shop, it seems like a wound that is suddenly opened up again," Ceasar said through a translator. "I try to force myself to forget, but I just cannot."
The fire on Nov. 7 destroyed their Likini Street home in Salt Lake and left Ceasar and 24 other relatives homeless for weeks. Her son died in the blaze, which firefighters believe was started by a child playing with a lighter.
It sparked a new set of problems for the family, who moved to Hawaii from Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. Because all of their documents were burned in the fire, the family spent about a week trying to locate its insurer.
At the same time, the family was looking for another permanent living space while grieving the death of John Rex and sending his remains back to Chuuk.
Earlier this month the family was renting an Aiea home that was originally reserved for a military couple, who decided to give it up for the family, said Kangichy Welle, a family spokesman and John Rex's uncle.
Then boxes and baskets of donations and goods flowed in for the family. In their new home, their garage is filled with toys, clothes (some that do not fit any of the 12 children), housing supplies, appliances and furniture.
Much of it came from local Chuukese organizations, Pearl Harbor Elementary School, Aliamanu Middle School, Chaminade University, the Kalihi-Palama Health Center and various churches.
"We are in good hands with the outpouring of support," Welle said. "Nothing in my life before have I experienced something like this. I felt very close to the people of Hawaii."
Many of the adults in the family have to hold two jobs in order to help pay for the mortgage on the home that burned as well as the rent on their new home. Welle, 58, of Kalihi is training one of the men to become a family bookkeeper, while others contribute and save for their living costs.
"I had to handpick one of them who is trustworthy, trainable for him to do the accounting," Welle said. "But every person in this home is accountable for what they do for the family."
Despite her loss, Ceasar said she reminds herself that she is not the only person suffering a loss during the holidays. She said she wants others coping with loss and grief to know that they are in her prayers.
Yesterday she played with her 7-year-old daughter, Iwanei Raymond, and several nieces and nephews. She smiled as she watched the children play with donated toys. Barbecue smoke wafted through the air as other family members drifted into the home.
"Nothing can replace what they lost, but the kids are coming together," Welle said. "It's working out, and they are at a place that is actually a place, where everyone can come together and barbecue and be with family."
Welle said the family will continue to have hard times, but yesterday at least was a day where they did not have to worry about the hard road ahead.
"It might be looked at as something destructive," Welle said about the fire. "But in the end, the fire contributed to everyone coming together better as a family."