CFFF Courage Vol.14 NA

Vol.14

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68 "GOOD GRIEF"- LIVING LIVES THAT HONOUR OUR FALLEN By Scott Young I remember the first firefight- er funeral I attended. I was blown away by the sense of honour and respect in that Vancouver church as Chaplain Bruce Rushton led the service. It was not a Line of Duty Death, but it was a young man who had died in a motorcycle accident. It was an emotional service and I was moved by the sense of love and care in the room. But it was an emotionally heavy experience. I was a firefighter for about five years before I took on the role of Chaplain in Coquitlam Fire/Rescue. Now in my 22nd year in the Fire Service, I've presided over at least fifteen "celebration of life" services and attended many more. I am sometimes asked by my fellow firefighters, "How do you do it?" by which they mean, "How do you walk alongside so many people in grief?" They ask this because grief makes us uncomfortable. I must admit, each journey has an emotional impact on me and each one comes with some negative feelings; however, each experience is also a rich experience of love, connection, and personal growth. Most firefighters will attend more funerals and memorials than the average person. Not only do we show up out of love and care, we respond out of duty to honour those who served, and especially those whose lives were cut short because of their service. When we come together to honour our fallen, we demonstrate to their families and to the world that their sacrifice has great value, because their lives have great value. Life is the greatest gift we are given. Our participation in these events opens us up to experiencing grief at some level, depending on our relation- ship to the fallen or their family. We share in grief when we hear the children of our fallen brothers and sisters tell a story about their mom or dad. Tear ducts open, a lump comes to our throat, and there is an uneasy feeling in our gut. In those moments, we share the storyteller's grief. These moments are emotionally intense; they are moments that emotionally connect all those gathered, and they are moments of great beauty. The storytellers and families get to experience the whole room united with them emotionally, validating the value of their loved one, and validating their deep grief. The beauty is love in the form of empathy, and it is palpable. I won't go further into the grieving process for the loved one except to say that grief is the price of love. This process of holding on and letting go with intense waves of emotions, while painful, can result in deep growth and understanding where the sufferer emerges with renewed life. But what is the impact on those who are touched by grief, but are not at its epicenter? How does attending these celebrations of life affect us? There is certainly value to us. It's hard not to come away from hearing about the most significant aspects of a person's life and not be affected by it. We hear of accomplishments, funny stories, important possessions, and most of all, significant relationships. What is most often expressed by loved ones is the significance of their connection to the departed - that is what will be missed most. When we couple these stories with an experience of shared grief, many come away with an appreciation for, or a renewed desire to connect to, their own loved ones. Suddenly the bills are less important than family, and things are less important than relationships. These shifts come because you've faced a reality as you've touched grief: you are going to die. What will they say at your "celebration of life?"

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