Nobody gives thanks for being homeless.
Just days before Thanksgiving Shay Kimberly Mattern is on her knees doing just that only because she knows deep in her heart it could have been an inexplicable horror story, much worse than losing a house.
This mother knows she and her husband Jordan could have lost something that could never be replaced, their six children.
So no, it's not gratitude their home is a skeleton of a house with a life of memories in ashes, but rather thankfulness her family is whole, and safe, and ready to move forward and rebuild their life.
Shay is in a "functioning daze" since last Tuesday when a fire ripped through their house on Sunny Meade in Mt. Juliet.
In very little time from when she opened the door and saw her kitchen island stove in flames her family's literal world was wiped out. Pictures, mementos, children's first drawings, heirlooms, electronics, toys, clothes, baby albums, certificates... everything.
"All we have left really are the clothes on our back," she said quietly Monday night while sitting in a car with three of her six children.
The other three were up ahead in a car with her husband. It's late and they were out looking for a place to eat. They are staying at the Quality Inn in Mt. Juliet, in two rooms, from renter's insurance proceeds. They will have to leave in two days.
Monday night's task was to simply get the kids out for a breather and food,and to try to find records in Jordan's truck still parked at the burned house. His keys burned up in the fire and he needs proof of registration to get another set.
While he searches, Shay is frantically doing a Google search.
"She's beside herself," Jordan said. "Everyday she gets on the Internet to reassure they didn't die a horrible death."
"They" are the family's beloved pets Stitch and Abby. They perished in the fire.
"The firefighters told us they found them huddled around each other under our bed," Jordan manages to say. "The only comfort is we are told the flames didn't get to them and we are told it was like going to sleep."
Shay wishes she could believe this is true, so she Googles a lot to get reassurance. She said she screamed and screamed for the miniature pinschers when the house was burning.
"At first the neighbors had to restrain her because she wanted to go in a save them," Jordan said.
A pet lizard also didn't make it.
But it goes back to Shay and Jordan knowing their entire family, their six children ages 4 though 14, had been asleep in the house just hours before. First responders said if the fire broke out then, it most likely would have been a deadly story.
Typical Tuesday gone horribly awry
"It started out an average day," said stay at home mother Shay. "Madison  wasn't feeling well, so she stayed at home."
They made a quick run to Kroger to pick up a prescription. Shay got a call from her alarm company and decided to swing back around to check on the house. She figured it was a false alarm. Madison stayed in the car while Shay ran into the house. There were no physical signs something was wrong outside.
"I opened the kitchen door and saw my kitchen island was on fire," she said.
She quick called 911 while she moved the car away from the house.
"I knew I needed to get my babies [pets] out and went into the front door and the smoke and heat hit me like a ton of bricks. I could hear the windows bursting. It was too late. The family had a fun first birthday party for Stitch the day before.
Firefighters put up a heroic fight against the flames.
"They were able to recover two Bibles and a couple of pictures," Shay said gratefully.
'Astounded' at community support
To say the community immediately tucked this family under wing would be an understatement.
"Complete strangers came to comfort us while we stood in the yard while the house still smoldered," Shay said Monday night. "They immediately offered bedrooms, and one person offered his RV for us to sleep in."
Thankfully, said Shay, the SRO officer at her childrens' school heard about the fire and called and said he would keep them at school and watch over them so they wouldn't have to get off the bus and see the shocking scene of their home in ruins. Aside from the loss of necessities, it's the sentimental things that can never be replaced.
"It's childhood things, like my grandfather's Air Force pictures, things from my grandparents," Jordan said "It's just really hard to grasp."
Shay said with the help of a loving community, friends, family and total strangers, their family is "shepherding through."
"Yes, this has been a devastating thing, so depressing words can't describe, but we have each other and our children," Shay said. "The outpouring of love is amazingly good."
They said you never think this could happen to you. While the cause of the fire was undetermined, it looks like an electrical malfunction in the stove.
"We could have been asleep," Shay said. "They said it went up fast. I can't thank God enough for the timing. All the doors on the side we sleep would have been blocked off. And Madison and I were only gone 20 minutes when the fire broke out."
Shay's cousin set up a GoFundMe account which had already raised $11,000 by hundreds of people.
Jake, 4, keeps asking mommy if the house is still burned.
"And, our oldest wants to know when we will move back in," said Shay.
There's no way they can. They are looking for a new place to live. It's hard with six children living with hardly anything in two hotel rooms.
One of the children cried over a blanket he's had since a baby. Shay said, "I'll buy you 10 more."
But she knows you can't replace the irreplaceable.
"We will get through this," she said. "I bless the people on Facebook, and just everywhere for the support. It's been phenomenal."
Since it's cold, Jordan ran out and bought some winter coats for the kids. Bags of clothes have been donated. They are starting from scratch, meaning no underwear, socks, toothbrushes, mattresses, toiletries, furniture, dishes.
They will spend Thanksgiving with family this year.
"And, yes, we will give thanks," Shay said quietly. "The house is gone, our pets are gone. But I can say God is good. He blessed us to save our children."
Along with the GoFundMe account, an account has been set up for the family at all First Tennessee Banks in the name of Jordan Mattern.
For a list of sizes for donated clothing, go to wilsonpost.com to read on original fire story post.
Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.