Charlie and I passed each other by the coffee pot in waiting area of our convention hotel the next morning. He did not speak, but simply gave me the thumbs up sign. This piqued my interest and I left for our morning sessions, looking forward to hearing what our chaplain had to say at our memorial service. Our service was held at a lovely little Catholic church on High Street in downtown Hancock.
As I took my position in the rear of that lovely little edifice, my mind began to travel back in time. One of the people being honored this day was my late friend Joe Bukowski of the Aetna Hose, Hook, and Ladder Company in Newark, DE. Joe was a past president of the CVFFA, and a friend.
>p>More than that, Joe was a buddy and a fellow cigar aficionado. We spent countless hours over the years sharing a smoke and philosophizing about the future of the American Fire Service. I did not know the other people being memorialized by the service as well as I did Joe, but realized that each had played a part in making the CVVFA what it is today. Each person's life had a value and that was what our group was honoring. Sadly, this is a concept being lost in our country today. All too often we seem to honor the celebrities of our world. However, the person who has lived a good life and contributed to him community is too often overlooked.
The hymns of the day were all favorites in my world of religious music. The lessons from the old and new Testament scriptures were appropriate. From the old Testament came the words from the Book of Ecclesiastes which told us that there was a season for everything. From the Book of John we were all reminded of the reality that there were many rooms in Heaven for all of us, if you accept the Lord and confess your sins. We then sang the words of the 23rd Psalm to remind us of the journey through the valley mentioned earlier.
All of this led up to the point at which Chaplain Charlie was to deliver his sermon. He rose from his seat and then moved out into the midst of the congregation. He joined the flock to deliver his message. He began with a confession. He told all of us that he had not written a sermon. He did tell us that he simply wanted to share a few thoughts with us about his love for the CVVFA and its members. He stated that he was going to tell us a story.
He spoke of his initial election to office many years ago. He spoke of the joy of being asked to tend a real special flock. He then went on to mention his relationship with a number of the past presidents. He spoke of the importance of friendship, service, loyalty, and honesty. His words were moving indeed. He had words of praise for the accomplishments of each. He mentioned the uniqueness of each person and the impact of their actions.
He then went on to speak of the need to honor the specific things which occur between the beginning and the end of a person's life. One of his key thoughts involved the need to be true to your friends and keep the names of your friends on your lips. The simple act of mentioning a friend in passing can serve to keep their memory alive in the world. He urged those of us in attendance to keep their memories alive through our actions and devotion to others.
He concluded his words of wisdom to us with an important thought. He urged us to live according to the exhortations of the Book of Ecclesiastes. He asked us to consider how we could continue to live on this earth if we did not believe this that there was a time for everything, a time to be born, a time to live, and a time to die. He told the congregation that we were all on a journey through the valley of the shadow of death. He suggested to us that we could not run back out of the valley. He stated that we must walk through the valley. You cannot climb out of the valley. He told us that we had to walk through that valley all by ourselves. I was quietly pleased that he had used my words to complete his thoughts.
There is a story in my words to you this day. My friend Chaplain Charlie faced a challenge. He faced his demons and attacked them head on. He had walked through that lonesome valley. He met the challenge. But as you might expect, he did not walk it alone. I am referring to the fact that the Lord was with him, but you might also gather that it is my belief that part of our time here on earth must be spent helping and supporting others.