The Raphael Remedy

“Her Fireman Died” – A Story of Beauty in the Midst of Life’s Deepest Pain

by | Aug 30, 2016 | Counseling

“Her fireman died.”   These were the poignant words of my toddler son, as he pointed to a woman in the grocery store.  Of course, he was not aware of the weight of his statement.

The woman was his teacher at a church school the year before.  She was his favorite teacher, which was evidenced by the smile he tried to hide upon entering the classroom and the warm hug he welcomed when saying “bye bye.”  She made sure he and all the children had fun and felt safe—-no doubt a demanding task for that age group. I am impressed by anyone who can keep eight toddlers seated around a table long enough to eat a snack and sing a song. I could barely make that happen with my son alone!

My son’s favorite day at school, which he still remembers even though he was only a toddler at the time, was when firemen from the local station came for a visit. The children, who naturally think all fire-fighters are superheroes, were ebullient as they watched the fire truck’s ladder go “up, up, up, way high” and then lean against the building. “Like this” he would say, while showing us with his own fire truck at home. Firemen in full gear climbed the ladder and waved to the children, seemingly “as high as the clouds,” the children were sure. Fire hats, fire hoses, fire truck gadgets, and real live firemen made this a school day to remember.

Halfway through the year, my son’s teacher informed us that she was retiring from the school. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer and they needed to spend more time together as a family. My son was sad to see her go and it took him a while to adjust to a new teacher.

Before the year was over we were invited to a fundraiser for his teacher’s family. Her husband was receiving aggressive treatments in a distant city and the travel costs, coupled with medical bills, were getting high. An overwhelming number of people came to support this courageous family: parishioners, parents and children from the school, and plenty of firemen.

We discovered her husband was one of the firemen our son had raved about on that day. And now, after years of volunteering to fight fires in the community, he was fighting a new kind of fire—-one that sought to take his life. But he did not stand alone in his fight for life. He had the prayers and support of those who loved him and even many who met him only briefly. Heaven was faithfully flooded with a stream of prayers, in hope of extinguishing the cancer.

A few months later we heard the sad news. My wife attended the funeral. She gently told our son, “We pray that he will be with Jesus in Heaven.”

“Her fireman died?”  He questioned for understanding.
“Yes, her fireman died.”
“Why did her fireman die?”

Some questions do not have an easy answer.

Life is mysterious, deeply painful at times, yet always beautiful. We all have memories of loved ones whom we have lost. Their absence may be felt daily, but consolation and joy are welcomed as we remember them. When grieving the loss of life, the intensity of our human emotions is actually a testament to the value of human life. Loving someone deeply leads to experiencing the beauty of life.

Every person has dignity and the ability to bless others richly. Each person is loved unconditionally by someone else. Whether you are someone’s parent, sibling, teacher, priest, friend, or fireman, your life is meaningful to others and has eternal value.

Let us pray for those persons who are grieving the death of someone they love deeply. May they be consoled in the hands of God. And may their sorrow and joy become a proclamation to the world about the value of each human life.

Chris Stravitsch, DMin, LPC-S, LMFT-S
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