Then it was my turn to speak. I walked to the platform trying not to make eye contact with anyone.
There was a coin imprinted in the podium and rubbing my finger over it felt real, felt solid.
“To the firefighters, thank you for how you have cared for us. To the firefighters’ wives and girlfriends, we need to sit and have tea soon. To my friends and family, I want to say I have no regrets. To my church family, thank you and I think I have gained a few pounds.”
There were a few chuckles.
“Different thoughts have come to mind about what I want to say to you, but I haven’t written anything down. Here goes. This past June, we went on a family trip to Indianapolis for General Assembly for the Church of the Nazarene. I’d gone to General Assembly four years earlier. It was such a wonderful time with God, I felt Him stir in my heart a desire to bring Bruce and our girls back with me if I ever had the chance to go again. So when I had the opportunity to return, we decided to make it a family adventure. Because Meghan’s eighth–grade graduation was Tuesday and I needed to be in Indianapolis on Wednesday, we made it a real adventure and drove overnight. I can tell you two things I learned from driving overnight: it’s very dark and there are lots of big trucks. When we arrived, I gave the girls and Bruce the schedules I’d made for them because, well, I’m a planner.”
I spotted a few dear friends who knew me best nodding their heads.
“Within hours,” I continued, “the girls and Bruce had made different plans. I was disappointed, and as I prayed, the still small voice of God said, ‘I told you to get them here. I didn’t tell you to plan their days.’ So, they did their own things, but dinners and evening service were together—and we had the best time.”
I took a deep breath. “I believe the same is true today. Bruce got you here. Personally, I would have preferred a different way to get you here, but we showed you God. Now, what you do with that is your business. God is a gentleman. He will never force his way in. We showed you love. The Bible says God is love. So, you have seen God.”
I returned to my seat during a standing ovation.
Pastor Steve gave a sermon entitled “Prepared In and Out of Season” in which he gave a strong Gospel message.
We sang one more song before the benediction.
At that point, Pastor Steve invited the two city officials to read letters from the mayor and the governor. I got my wish that the mayor wasn’t present. Not because I told him not to come, but because there were so many funerals for him to attend.
Before the colors were retired, Captain Vomero of Squad 41 presented Emily with a memorial firefighter helmet, as Charlie handed Bruce’s dress hat to Meghan.
Years ago, Meghan had added a piece of paper to the inside of Bruce’s hat so that when he took it off, he would see it. It said, “I love you, Dad” and was signed “Megs.” That note was still there.
Captain Vomero instructed the firefighters to file out. Again, there was a standing ovation and thunderous applause. And then Emily, Meghan, and I walked out the side door followed by my family. I felt like I was leading a parade.
Outside the church, we were met by a silence that was almost palpable. As I walked around to the front of the church toward the firefighters standing in formation, I heard only one sound: my heels on the pavement.
The firefighters stared straight ahead as I passed them wearing a weak smile. There were people standing across the street, but what I remember most of all was that silence.
Silence except for the click, click of my shoes on the pavement.
There was no bagpiper. I had decided the sound of bagpipe music was something I couldn’t prepare myself to hear.
That would’ve been too much.
The girls, my parents, and I reentered the church through a downstairs walkway en route to the reception. There, friends and family were already helping themselves to cheesecake from the Bronx and coffee—Bruce’s favorites.
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