My husband and I went to a funeral today. It was tragic, it was beautiful, it was unimaginable, and it was enlightening. There will be story after story about today's funeral, so I'm not going to dwell on it, but on something I learned today.
My husband is a firefighter. He's part of this special brotherhood that he's tried to describe to me over and over, and that I thought I understood. But today, I learned something about that brotherhood. I sat in a sea of navy uniforms and brass badges, and watched grown men with their shoulders bent and their heads bowed, as they wept for the pain of a brother who lost his child. Some of them, many of them, didn't even know this brother, but he is theirs, and his pain is shared. They laughed and cried at the stories being told as if they had lost a beloved nephew, and in many ways, they had.
And then these strong, honorable men - men who have vowed to give their own lives if it will save another - carried this child to a waiting fire truck, an honor normally reserved for one of their own. The stood on the side and tail boards of this truck and carried this baby to his final resting place. Along the way were more brothers and sisters, at every intersection standing proud and saluting a 4 year old who inspired the world. Strangers, but family, with their hands over their hearts, or their hats in their hands, grieving because that's what families do.
There was a sign stretched across the road, hung from the ladders of two trucks. The sign said "Dyrk Strong" to honor a little boy lost, and the strength he showed as he fought a losing battle.
While I watched these men, and learned what this brotherhood really means, I also watched the women with them. They cried, they hurt, and yet, they stood. That quiet, gentle strength that gives a man the courage to live his dream, and risk his life. They stood. And I realized, as I hugged a woman that lived through the unimaginable this week, my husband isn't the only one.
As much as he is a part of this strong and honorable brotherhood, I have become a part of something just as powerful. These are my sisters, my strength in the long nights. These are the women who very often get forgotten when we thank a first responder for what he does. These are the women that make it possible. They keep the home and hearth, they hold the families together, and they make it worth coming through the fire.
I learned today, that no matter what else I am or have been, I am.....a firefighter's wife.