No time for goodbye

I bid farewell to two fire service colleagues yesterday - one retiring, the other promoting & transferring. Both goodbyes were interrupted by emergency calls. Just a quick, tight handshake and that pull-in half hug that guys do, then I ran for the ambulance. Years together in the firehouse, over in a few seconds.

That’s all endings, isn’t it? Coming, coming, almost here, gone.

Perhaps the best we can do with each other is to forget that we will all part company someday. Together, these colleagues and I have seen many people’s last moments as human beings on earth, the culmination of decades of life, slipping away on a street or in an ill-lit basement. Almost gone, almost gone… gone. All their private moments, all the thoughts they never shared, lost. Gone in less time than it takes to shake someone’s hand. Not enough time for unspoken truths.

In those moments, I was on fire. We were working, so we were all one. Nothing could be allowed to go wrong, not even the fumbling of the greenest rookie in the room. It felt like my mind flowed out to encompass the scene, seeing through everyone’s eyes. Strobing windshield spiderwebs, orange traffic cones. Musty cigarette pillows, overturned med bottles, urine and cold skin. In those grotesque moments I could forget about the last handshake, the pressure of the next call pulling us apart.

I was happy, in spite of what I was witnessing. I thought it was because I was doing something that mattered - trying to save a life. But maybe I was also happy because when we worked together, I forgot all our own endings. I forgot that one way or another, we will part ways.

Surely that demands that we stand with each other, speak nothing but truth to each other, live to preserve each other. Surely we must

but I have another call. I have to go. It’s been great. Be safe.

See you.