1. #1
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    SteveDude's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    London, England

    Default From the heart...

    Today I went to a Fire Service Funeral....

    I'm ashamed to say, as I sit here and write this I can't remember exactly how many Fire Service funerals I have attended on both sides of the Atlantic... some were line of Duty Deaths, some were members who died whilst off duty.

    I remember my first. My first day on duty after training...Wednesday 18th November 1987, was the same day as the Kings Cross Fire happened and we lost Stn O Colin Townsley. A week later, as a Bewildered 19 year old, I stood among a line of One Thousand Firemen at Kings Cross as the Cortege of Machines from Soho and Funeral cars drove by Kings Cross Station... the smell of stale smoke was still heavy in the autumn air.

    Today I went to another Fire Service Funeral...it wasn't a funeral for a Line of Duty Death, but a close Brother Fireman and friend who passed a couple of weeks ago.

    John had a fantastic funeral...he was a Man's man, ex Sailor, Firefighter and member of the Territorial Parachute Regiment. He had a full Military/Fire Service Guard of honour...the streets around the church and the cemetery were filled with hundreds... Nimrod by Elgar was played in the Church, as was 'we are sailing' by Rod Stewart... an anthem for anyone who served in the Navy in the late 70's early 80's... we sang Jerusalem (was there ever a better Hymn for an Englishman) and we listened to the Poems...'If' By Rudyard Kipling and 'Footprints' by Mary Stevenson.

    We were regaled by tales of Johns life... like how, on a Military exercise in Virginia USA he and a Naval Colleague went into a downtown bar...as they walked in, the music stopped. Johns friend feared for his life, John, typically walked up to the toughest looking man in the bar...seeing a Bulldog Tattoo asked in his broad Cockney accent "What’s that all about then"?... The Guy told him it was the US Marine Corps Bulldog and that he was a former US Marine... John, congratulated him and went on to tell him that was all good but he wasn't a Marine until he was a 'Royal Marine'... and then spent two hours lecturing him on the finer points and history of the British Military, and how, if it hadn't been for the turncoat French the USA would still be British!!! As was always the way with John, after this two hours, the US Marine and him were the best of buddies and happily drunk themselves into oblivion.

    It isn't every day a man has a funeral like John's...and we'd all do well to have a funeral like that. But you know what??? John's was a young mans' funeral...a funeral where 100's of people, young and old gathered on a Warm sunny June day in East London and a Funeral none of us had the right to be at...because John should still be alive.

    The music, the poems, the fantastic memories were all good... but there were young people crying at that funeral. Stood in the guard of honour as he left the church, one thing shattered me like nothing at every other funeral I have ever seen...John's Daughter Elizabeth, 7 years old and a spit of here dad.... awash with tears, nervously came forward with her 14 year old brother George and standing up on tip toes, she tenderly touched her Fathers coffin.

    That such a sweet innocent child had to do that is beyond me... Tonight, I am here, having celebrated John's life with plenty of beer I am here, warm, safe and very much alive...My own Daughters, 13, 9 and 19 Months can hold me, kiss, me, break by Balls, laugh with me and cry with me. I am blessed. I am blessed just to be here.

    I saw a funeral recently, just a hearse and a few cars... the cars, were filled mainly with older people and I could tell by the floral tributes that this man was an old man. Whatever he had seen and done in his life...probably fought for his country, raised a family and then watched with pride as his family raised their own.

    He didn't have a funeral as grand and as noble as John's...but he had something else...he had a long life.

    I sit here now... personally I don't really care when I die, I just hope it is quick and painless.... but I want to live a long time. I want to live to a rude old age. Not because I am scared of death or because I am selfish...but for those I leave behind. I want my Daughters to see me at my Funeral as Middle aged Women with their own children, Women who will be crying, but crying in the knowledge that I was there for them...through school, through college, through arguments and personal crisis, through their weddings and at a distance through their own lives. They are there, sad that I am gone, but comforted that I had a good life.

    I don't want hundreds of Firemen at my Funeral... just a few old retired colleagues, those who can remember back the 30 odd years since I retired and remember stories of a Fire Brigade long forgotten.

    For all of you who know me and love me...I hope I am around giving you a hard time for decades to come. Because too many times I have felt the pain of loss for a friend who I can no longer talk to... And for all of you...some of whom I know and love others who I am just acquainted with. I wish you a long and happy life and hope we are all still walking this earth until we are well past 80 and there isn't a great deal left to do in our lives.

    Stay safe, live long...because you owe it to all those around you.

    One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was
    walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the
    sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he
    noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one
    belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When
    the last scene of his life flashed before him, he
    looked back at the footprints in the sand. He
    noticed that many times along the path of his life
    there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed
    that it happened at the very lowest and saddest
    times in his life. This really bothered him and he
    questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, You said that
    once I decided to follow you, You'd walk with me all
    the way. But I have noticed that during the most
    troublesome times in my life, there is only one set
    of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed
    you most you would leave me." The Lord replied,
    "My son, My precious child, I love you and I would
    never leave you. During your times of trial and
    suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it
    was then that I Carried You."

    IF you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
    And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
    If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    ' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
    if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
    And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
    Steve Dude
    IACOJ member

    London Fire Brigade...."Can Do"

    'Irony'... It's a British thing.

  2. #2
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    May 2005


    Thank You Steve: I believe I feel as you do. How well I remember when my Dad would go to work (FDNY in the 50's-70's). I guess as a child I knew the risks of his job, he was always coming home injured somehow. As a result I would always make sure that before he left to go to work I would make sure he came downstairs and gave me a hug and kiss. To this day I still buy OLd Spice aftershave because of those momemnets. Thank you for a fantastic post.

  3. #3
    FlyingKiwi's Avatar
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    May 2002
    New Zealand



    Coming back in to a new Brigade recently after a couple of years away was a hard decision. Did I really need the bollocks that goes on with calls? Did I need to put my wife, and son back into that limbo that occurs when you flick out the door on the pagers call?

    Long lonely thoughts looking at 22 years involved with incidents from one service to the next had meant I thought it was time to move on with my life.

    Now in our new town it is simple, and as clear as I have ever known anything. It is a bigger Brigade, 3 trucks not one, Pump Rescue Tender (24/7 response), our old building including the truck bay would fit in the smoko room. over ten times the call volume, the other day in three minutes we had two trucks going different directions for fire and MVA calls leaving the station together.

    These people are the salt of the earth. Care about other people with a passion that shows to those that know how to see, and to outsiders appears as a thick callous skin.

    I consider it a priviledge to be able to start and work again amongst men and women who care so much they will face the darkness so others may sleep innocently and peacefully.

    I will look forward to the day when we share an ale together and just laugh the laugh of living, however long that lasts for. Brothers and Sisters on this forum and at IACOJ helped me to keep my head up through some tough times, they all know who they are.

    Now I can pay that back by stepping up when the call comes, and doing the job to my best.

    To those that have gone before us, to those that will come after us.
    stand up, stand down, stand beside us, or get out of our way.

    Kia Kaha Steve my Brother.
    Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
    Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

  4. #4
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    FyredUp's Avatar
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    Jul 1999
    Rural Wisconsin, Retired from the burbs of Milwaukee



    That was incredible, thank you for sharing.

    I have lost friends at far too young of an age. Not even through fire service related events and you are absolutely right about the difference of the funeral of a person still in their prime versus and elderly person. Not that the sadness for the elderly person isn't as deep for the loved ones, but it is different when you realize they had a long life versus seeing the pain and sadness left by a younger person passing. Especially if that person had a wonderful life, great potential and was loved by many.

    As I said in the Charleston post, tell those who you love and cherish what they mean to you right now today because tomorrow is not always here for some.

    Stay safe my Brothers and Sisters...


  5. #5
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    Jan 2001
    'Tween the Mississippi & St Croix


    Amen, Steve

    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscripti catapultas habebunt. (When catapults are outlawed, only outlaws will have catapults!)

  6. #6
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    Apr 2007


    WOW! Thanks for sharing !

  7. #7
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    May 2007
    Queensland, Australia


    Great post, and thanks for sharing

  8. #8
    PaulGRIMWOOD's Avatar
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    Jul 1999


    Nice post Steve. Take care mate .... call me anytime.

  9. #9
    Forum Member
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    Nov 2001
    Division 24


    Steve it has been a hard week for firefighters world wide. Your post reminds us of the universal pride and dedication and humor we share as firefighters. Stay safe everyone.

  10. #10
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    DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Aug 2000
    Somewhere between genius and insanity!


    Steve... excellent post and food for thought.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  11. #11
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    martinm's Avatar
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    Oct 2001
    Northumberland, United Kingdom


    Thought provoking and thoughtful at the same time. Up here anytime for you mate.
    United Kingdom branch, IACOJ.

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