My daughter spent a couple of summers on a firefighting crew. I’ll be honest, it terrified me. The forests on these mountains surrounding us are dense. I’ve seen how one lightening strike can set a mountain afire. I lived in a small valley town where the entire community rallied around those fighting the fires on the mountains, where every morning was greeted with, “How are the firefighters doing today?” My son-in-law worked on a hot shot crew. I know how fearless he can be in the face of what I, at least, would consider dangerous pursuits.
God makes us all differently for a purpose. We need people who are willing risk-takers. These are the people who protect us, day in and day out, without thought to their own personal sacrifices.
I have been on the scene of many a fire as a reporter. Once terrible day I had two major fires going at separate ends of town. An arson fire at the playground and a timber fire at the Boise-Cascade plant. I did not get home until 3 a.m. but as I drove towards home all I could think about was that those firefighters weren’t going home. They were still working the fire.
I have this awful terrible memory that will, I realize now, never leave me no matter how old I grow. And that is the memory of the complete dark void that was left imprinted upon me by the death of my own father when I was only nine.
That’s what I think about when I think of those nineteen firefighters from Prescott, Az.
The black emptiness of a life without.
There is nothing — not even the tender love of God — that takes away that dark emptiness. And if you have lost someone precious, at any age, you understand that.
That’s why the prayers of friends and loved ones matter so much. We all need someone willing to sit with us in our darkness. Someone willing to reach out and grasp our hand and say, “You are not alone in this. I am right here and I’m going to stay right here beside you, no matter how dark life may seem. I’m staying with you until morning light breaks.”
I don’t know all the names of the people who prayed for me, but I know that without those prayers I would not be here writing to you about all of this. I might not have been here at all, without those prayers.
The day Mama learned Daddy was dead, she contemplated taking her own life. It was a friend who talked her through that dark moment. A friend who came alongside her and urged her to think beyond the moment. A friend who sat with my mother in the darkness.
There were 19 firefighters who lost their lives. Each of those nineteen firefighters had a mother and a father. Maybe stepmothers, stepfathers. Siblings. Aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins. Some had girlfriends. Some had wives. Some had children.
Children who woke up this morning to an emptiness they can’t quite comprehend but one that will shadow them throughout their lives.
Would you pick just one name off that firefighter list and commit to pray for that young man’s family from here forward, for the rest of your life, for as long as you have breath? Will you pray for that man’s loved ones? Would you be willing to sit in the dark with them until the light of a new dawn?
Nothing, and I mean nothing, changes the dynamics of grief like prayer.