Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Goodbye in Photos

First of all, what sweet comments and notes I got from you all out there. Strangers even. And man, it is amazing how touched firefighters are by the loss of one of their own, even if they're across the country and have never met the guy.

If you've visited me here before, you know how attached I am to my camera. I brought it to my mother's funeral (although I can't remember if I used it, and if I did, I don't know where those files are). I also brought it to her ashes spreading in Florida and hid behind my lens so I wouldn't have to feel it all over again. Even if I don't have my main camera, I almost always try to stick a point-and-shoot in my pocket.

When I was getting ready for Tink's funeral Friday morning, I debated the camera. There were the normal girly considerations like how in the world could I get it to fit into my purse without looking like a freak (I decided looks weren't everything). But more then that, I was worried about how appropriate it was.

I've spent a good amount of time around Ryan's guys with my camera, and I suspect they appreciate it, and for sure I know they're used to seeing me that way. In fact, when Tink died, they asked me if I had any pictures of Tink hanging around, which I did. That's why I decided to just bring it along "in case". I'm so glad I did.

I imagined that the funeral for Tink would be huge, but I had no idea. The church, which had 1200 chairs, was full, with people standing in the back. There was an overflow sanctuary that I hear was full too. The service was beautiful (I didn't take pictures of course), and they touched on sweet things, but plenty of funny things (fitting for Tink!). At the end they excused all uniformed personel to go outside to make a line of honor. I didn't know what that meant. 90% of the church filed out silently. The rest of us followed the casket out and when I came outside, I was surrounded by men and women in uniform standing at attention. It was indescribable.


I was on the 5th vehicle back in the procession down to Queen Creek. It was the firefighters' family bus, and from where we were we couldn't see the 100 fire engines behind us, but we could see Tink riding ahead of us on top of his engine (which is also my husband's engine). I had no idea the processional would be this amazing. There were fire trucks at every intersection.




People standing on the side of the road waving flags and covering their hearts.


So many people....


And when we finally got to Tink's hometown, Queen Creek, we came around the corner and the entire elementary school was outside with signs, waving. I just can't even describe that feeling.


We came into the library parking lot, where they had tents set up for the firefighter service. First another line of honor.



Then into the tents where they had the entire bagpipe band, last bell, folding of the flag for tink's wife, a helicopter flyover, and most heart breaking, the last call... I've never heard it before, and Ryan tried to prepare me, but you just can't be prepared to hear that.


The whole day was just heartbreaking. To see his young children, and his wife, his parents, his brother, his tough firefighter brothers barely keeping it together, then not even trying to. But it was also beautiful and amazing. A fitting tribute to a good man who dedicated his life to the fire service and to supporting his family. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it.


When I put the pictures online, I hoped that everyone would accept them in the vein I took them: out of respect and love. I feel like I picked moments where it was ok to take pictures, and I left other moments alone. The camera was comforting to me, and I think the pictures are comforting to the guys.

And in true firefighter fashion, everyone went home after 6 exhausting hours of saying goodbye, took naps, got up, pulled themselves together... and held a WAKE. And oh boy, can firefighters drink to the memories of their friends. What a reunion it was, and I think if you'd asked Tink, this would have been his favorite part of the day. And nope! No pictures from that! And if there are, I'm not telling! :-)



(Note: I did not take the videos I have linked to here, but he did a good job capturing the firefighter service. East Valley Tribune also did an amazing video of the day)

2 Comments:

Blogger Hydrant girl said...

You brought me to tears with your pictures and your words. Thankyou for sharing this. Words can't describe how my heart breaks for his family.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

My husband says the "last call" is the worst. It brings tears to everyone's eyes. What a lovely tribute you have posted here. May God bless you. I'm sure the family will be touched knowing you care. I will pray for Tink's family.

8:37 PM  

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