A retired firefighter from our department passed away this weekend.
He was a 91 year old man. A World War II Army Veteran. His wife of 69 years died in 2008. He served on our fire department for 27 years. That’s just two years shorter than the length of my life at this point. He retired as a Captain.
FireDad told me about his passing on Friday, the day of his death. I don’t know if it’s because I celebrated a birthday and welcomed another year of my life or if because death and grief have been an all too present thought in my daily life as of late but I’ve been thinking a lot about firefighting, death and the like over the past few days.
I don’t think firefighters are better, in death or in life. They’re not all perfect people. They make mistakes in life. But to lose one, even one who is retired, is a somber reminder of the brevity of life. FireDad was off teaching a fire propane class yesterday. More so than any other time he has left me to teach this class, I feared for his safety. I told myself it was due to the weather, the storms and the wind. I feared for his drive there and for his return trip. I was anxious until he arrived home. I’ve always known the risks he faces with the job that he loves. Sometimes more than others, like now, I am reminded of them and they make me catch my breath. I force myself to remember he is a safe, capable firefighter surrounded by other safe, capable firefighters. I push away the thoughts of Ladder 49 and Backdraft. I imagine he is invincible. I know he is not but it is the only way to shake the nagging fear.
I work on Saturday. I think we’re having someone watch the boys for a few hours so FireDad can attend the viewing, the funeral and the graveside service. FireDad never fought a fire with this man but there is a sense of honor, respect and understanding that without our previous firefighters, our current men and women wouldn’t be where they are today.
We are grateful for the prior service of our late firefighter and we send our best to his family during this difficult time.