California couple who lost home finds engagement ring in ashes, husband proposes again

- What's that saying about life giving you lemons? That's just the perspective a Goleta couple appears to be taking after losing their home in the Holiday Fire in Santa Barbara County last week.

As wind-driven flames raced toward their home last Friday night Ishu and Laura Rao gathered Ishu's 12- and 14-year-old daughters, three dogs and a cat and got out heeding evacuation orders. 

Amid the rush, Laura Rao left behind her wedding and engagement rings which had been placed in a dish next to the bathroom sink.

On Sunday, knowing that all that remained of their home were ash and rubble, the Raos returned to their property, escorted by Santa Barbara County fire officials so they could look for the diamond Tiffany & Co. engagement ring and other possessions. 

The couple studied the ashy footprint of where their home once stood and worked to figure out where the ring was last left.

Miraculously, they found the treasured piece of jewelry. 

What happened next was captured in a photo that has since gone viral: Without thought, Ishu Rao promptly got down on bended knee and asked his wife to marry him again.

Santa Barbara County fire official Mike Eliason told KTVU it was a spontaneous moment, and he managed to get out his phone just in time to snap a photo. 

"He did it to bring a smile to her face," Eliason said, "... as they begin this new chapter of their life together."

Ishu Rao said his primary objective was to lift his wife's spirits. 

"She's the most beautiful woman I've ever known, she's the glue in our family, and I adore her to pieces, so if I can put a smile on her face I'm going to do it," the 48-year-old husband told the Associated Press.

The proposal moved his wife to tears.

"It put everything into perspective," the newly re-engaged Laura Rao, 39, said. "It took all the pain away and reminded me of what matters in life: the people around you."

The ring itself had expanded in the fire and the diamond was no longer there and Eliason said the couple will continue to search for the jewel.

A look at Ishu Rao's Facebook account shows he doesn't shy away from taking a light hearted approach to try and make people laugh even during challenging times.

On Sunday after visiting the fire site, he posted a sale ad for the family's trampoline which appeared to have escape the flames. The ad said, "Trampoline for sale. Gently used. Indestructible. No reasonable offer refused."

One Facebook friend commented, "I love that you still have a sense of humor in the devastating situation! Good for you!!!"

The Raos were married in November and as they rebuild from the fire loss they will be starting a new chapter in their lives in more than one way.

The proposal came as the Raos are awaiting the arrival of their first child together. Laura is three months pregnant, according to Eliason. 

Amid the destruction, it was clear the touching proposal demonstrated how the couple was making the most out of their situation. Eliason said, "It was truly a special moment out of the ashes."

The Holiday Fire has destroyed at least 13 homes. Firefighters expect to have it fully contained by 6 p.m. Tuesday.  

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