Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Awe of the Firefighting Brotherhood

I spent yet another weekend of my year at a hospital, this time with my brother-in-law Carl. For those that know him, he's been battling colon cancer for several years. This weekend, as the cancer moved with brutal force forward, I watched my friend and brother head toward the other side. He's still with us, but each breath takes him closer.

I was not alone in the vigil, of course. Carl's wonderful girlfriend, Cindy, and my sister-in-law, Kim were there right along side me. And they are still there, and I'm here at home, feeling awful that I had to leave, but knowing I had to come back to my babies and get to the new job tomorrow. Time, it seems, waits for no one.

Many others were there, too - family coming by to say goodbye for hours on end, friends galore. But what stood out to me, the most, was the brotherhood of firemen that stood by Carl's side, easing his way, easing his mind, sharing memories and openly crying over the impending loss of their colleague and friend. So many of them were trained by Carl, motivated by him, even saved by him. And they told their stories - ones full of oohs and aahhhs, others with lots of laughter, some that brought tears. I can not describe the beauty they brought to the desert landscape of death. They brought the story of Carl to life, and I know they will continue to do so for years to come for family and friends, for each other and for rookies who will doubtlessly be subjected to many of Carl's famed pranks.

The men and women of the fire departments of Dale City, DC, Occoquan/Woodbridge/Lakeridge (OWL), Fairfax and Manassas were all there to offer comfort in so many ways. Some came and simply quietly sat for hours at a time. Others brought goodies to share. Many spent time alone with Carl, saying goodbye. And many, many, many are planning his departure services, raising money to ensure his children are well cared for, ensuring all is in order when he passes and easing the burdens usually bore by immediate family alone. There is no better gift nor support that could be asked for.

Brotherhood can not be a more apt term for those in the fire departments that serve our communities. Thank you, brave men and women. For watching over your communities, for saving lives, for what you mean to Carl, and for what you mean to all of us who Carl is leaving behind. You. Are. Wonderful.

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