Today we celebrated the life of my friend and Fire Captain. There is much pomp and ceremony that goes into services of fire fighters. We marched down the very street we march every summer for our balloonfest parade. But there were stark differences today: this time were all freezing cold, our engine was draped with funeral buntings, and our heads were hung in sorrow… There were no crowds to wave and cheer for their small town heroes on this frigid winter day. Only a lonely parade of mournful fire fighters, saddened by the loss of one of their own.
But today was supposed to be a day of remembering all the good about him. Our Chief recalled stories about him. There were some great pictures, old and new. Drinks toasted. And tears were still shed. When the bag pipes played and the last alarm sounded. There was no stopping the sobs when we all really realized he was truly gone.
And I guess this is what it is about death: the finality. The thought that we will simply never, ever see that person again, never laugh with them, work with them, argue with them, love them. And did we tell them everything we wanted to tell them? Did they know how much we cared? Did my Captain know how important he was to me? He was one of my few allies in that department. One of the guys I could truly trust with my soul. They are hard to come by in the fire service.
He knew this was coming for a long time. He even sat right in my office and told me he didn’t want to be one of the ones to linger, to be pressing a morphine button, to have others watch him deteriorate. And yet, he did. It broke my heart. And made me angry. Angry at the system that allows humans less dignity than we give our animals when it comes to dying.
I saw him close to the end. I’m not sure if he saw me. I hope the spirit within him knew I was there. One thing I do know is that his spirit will walk our fire station now. He was there for over 25 years. He’s part of that place and death won’t change that… He wanted his ashes to be kept there (because that’s just how he was). So some of them are now in a fire memorabilia lamp at the station. I’m pretty sure he’ll use that lamp to play tricks on us, but that’s OK too. That way we’ll know he’s still around.
I love you Captain. I will miss you greatly. Thank you for all you gave me, both professionally and personally. Watch over us now and help keep us safe. PS No, you can’t have a fire permit where you went.