Category Archives: fire poem

Confession of a new Chaplain

A friend of mine posted a story on Facebook, and I just had to track down some information on the story. It is one of the most touching stories I have read in a long time.

My friend is a widow. Her husband was an officer who was killed in the line of duty. I must admit, I’ve seen the grief of family who have lost a spouse, but it has been “expected” to some degree. But a sudden loss, where someone has taken from you the opportunity to say goodbye, I can not even begin to imagine how that feels.

As a new Chaplain, some of my duties are easy to understand and fun to do. I use “duties” lightly, because I enjoy it, so it just seems natural to me. I’ll be honest, I do get a thrill in a police car. It’s a great feeling to know that someone trusts you enough to tell you the good, bad and ugly of being a cop. But as tragic as a line of duty death is, for the most part, it happens other places, but not here…not close to me. As Chaplain, I cover Huber Heights, and can provide “mutual aid” to anyone who may need it. But as Doctor Mike, I cover over 400 departments in 3 states. In some of those cases, maybe even most, I would not be able to be there them in person. Then I have to think how I help them grieve from 200 miles away. Honestly, this is the duty I dread. In an ideal world, all the good guys go home. But we don’t live in an ideal world. And when life goes wrong, we are there for the family. I like “being there” for people, and helping people through hard times, and telling people things will be all right. But in this scenario, I can’t say they will be all right. I hope to only help them through the pain that they now face.

There’s training on the “death notification”, and articles by “experts”, so I can know the facts and the techniques. The what not to say, what to say, be direct, but not too direct. Don’t use vague concepts “passed on”, and NEVER give them false hope, but if there is hope, give them some. It’s not easy, but my part in that story is the brief , painful beginning, and theirs is for the remainder of their life. I’ll never forget my pain when Deputy Hopper was killed, but it was small in comparison to her family and the CCSO.

So the story is below. I dedicate this to the large (and growing) number of Law Enforcement and Firefighter spouses who have struggled and still struggle with picking up the pieces and moving on. It’s is spread around the internet (with people changing the name), based on the book “Saying Olin to Say Goodbye” by Donald Hackett.


The time of concern is over. No longer am I asked how I am doing. Never is the name of my partner mentioned to me. A curtain descends. The moment has passed. A life slips from frequent recall. There are exceptions … close and comforting friends, sensitive and loving family. For most, the drama is over. The spotlight is off. Applause is silent. But for me, the play will never end. The effects are timeless. Say Olin to me.

On the stage of my life, he has been both lead and supporting actor. Do not tiptoe around the greatest event of my life. Love does not die. His name is written on my life. The sound of his voice replays within my mind. You feel he is dead. I feel he is of the dead and still lives. You say he was my partner. I say he is. Say Olin to me and say Olin again.

It hurts to bury his memory in silence. What he was in the flesh has now turned to ash. What he is in spirit, stirs within me always. He is of my past, but he is part of my present. He is my hope for the future. You say not to remind me. How little you understand that I cannot forget. I would not if I could. I forgive you, because you cannot know. I strive not to judge you, for yesterday I was like you. I do not ask you to walk this road. The ascent is steep and the burden heavy. I walk it not by choice. I would rather walk it with him in the flesh. I am what I have to be. What I have lost you cannot feel. What I have gained you cannot see. Say Olin , for he is alive in me.

He and I will meet again, though in many ways we have never parted. He and his life play light songs on my mind, sunrises and sunsets on my dreams. He is real and he is shadow. He was and he is.

He is my partner and I love him as I always did. Say Olin to me and say Olin again.


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I wish you could know

I wish you could know what it is like to search a burning
bedroom for trapped children at 3 AM, flames rolling above your head,
your palms and knees burning as you crawl,
the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen below you burns.

I wish you could comprehend a wife’s horror at 6 in the morning as I check
her husband of 40 years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR anyway,
hoping to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late.
But wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done
to try to save his life.

I wish you knew the unique smell of burning insulation,
the taste of soot-filled mucus,
the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear,
the sound of flames crackling, the eeriness of being able to see
absolutely nothing in dense smoke-sensations that I’ve become too familiar
with.

I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a building fire “Is this
false alarm or a working fire? How is the building constructed?
What hazards await me? Is anyone trapped?”
Or to call, “What is wrong with the patient?
Is it minor or life-threatening? Is the caller really in distress
or is he waiting for us with a 2×4 or a gun?”

I wish you could be in the emergency room as a doctor pronounces dead
the beautiful five-year old girl that I have been trying to save during
the past 25 minutes. Who will never go on her first date or say
the words, “I love you Mommy” again.

I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine,
squad, or my personal vehicle, the driver with his foot
pressing down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the air horn
chain, as you fail to yield the right-of-way at an intersection or in
traffic. When you need us however, your first comment upon our arrival will be,
“It took you forever to get here!”

I wish you could know my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of
teenage years from the remains of her automobile. “What if this was my
daughter, sister, my girlfriend or a friend? What were her parents
reaction going to be when they opened the door to find a police officer with hat
in hand?”

I wish you could know how it feels to walk in the back door and
greet my parents and family, not having the heart to tell them that I
nearly did not come back from the last call.

I wish you could know how it feels dispatching officers, firefighters and EMT’s
out and when we call for them and our heart drops because no one answers back
or to here a bone chilling 911 call of a child or wife needing assistance.

I wish you could feel the hurt as people verbally,
and sometimes physically, abuse us or belittle what I do,
or as they express their attitudes of It will never happen to me.

I wish you could realize the physical, emotional and mental drain or missed meals, lost sleep and forgone social activities,
in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have seen.

I wish you could know the brotherhood and self-satisfaction of helping save a life or
preserving someone’s property, or being able to be there in time of crisis, or
creating order from total chaos.

I wish you could understand what it feels like to
have a little boy tugging at your arm and asking, “Is Mommy okay?”
Not even being able to look in his eyes without tears from your own and
not knowing what to say. Or to have to hold back a long time friend who
watches his buddy having CPR done on him as they take him away in the Medic
Unit. You know all along he did not have his seat belt on. A sensation
that I have become too familiar with.

Unless you have lived with this kind of life, you will never
truly understand or appreciate who I am, we are, or what our job
really means to us…
I wish you could though.
author unknown

Courtesy of Palmayra Township FD

Stories for my Fire Friends

I’ve seen these posted over time and thought I’d pass them along.


What Do You Make?
Oh you’re a firefighter?? That’s cool. I wanted to do that when I was a kid. What do you make? WHAT DO I MAKE?? “I make holding your hand seem like the biggest thing in the world when I’m cutting you out of a car. I can make 5 minutes seem like a lifetime when I go in a burning house to save your family. I make those annoying sirens seem like angels when you need them. I can make your children breathe when they stop. I can help you survive a heart attack. I make myself get out of bed at 3 AM to risk my life to save people I’ve never met. Today I might make the ultimate sacrifice to save your life. I make a difference what do you make?


The Firefighter Stood
The firefighter stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

“Step forward now, you firefighter,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been True?”

The firefighter squared his shoulders and said,
“No, Lord, I guess I ain’t
because those of us who fight fire,
Can’t always be a saint.

I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough,
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the streets are awfully tough

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep,

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.

I know I don’t deserve a place
Among the people here
They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fears.

If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.”

There was a silence all around the throne
where the saints had often trod
As the firefighter waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God,

“Step forward now you firefighter,
You’ve borne your burdens well,
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.”


When God Made Firefighters
When God was creating firefighters, he was into the sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of extra work on this one.”

And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order? A firefighter has to wake up to a fire alarm, go into burning buildings to rescue people and enter areas the normal person wouldn’t go.

“He has to be willing to leave his family and put his life on the line, work to exhaustion and beyond and be ready for the next call.

“He has to have a strong commitment to a personal calling that places their lives in jeopardy every day.

He has to be in top physical and mental condition at all times, function on black coffee and half-eaten meals, and have a heart big enough to love members of the ‘brotherhood’ world-wide, and a unity of purpose.”

The angel shook it’s head slowly and said, “A heart that big… no way.”

“It’s not the heart that is causing me problems,” said the Lord, “it’s the extra hands and eyes a firefighter has to have.”

“That has to be on the standard model?” asked the angel.

The Lord nodded. “One pair of eyes that sees the whole situation, another pair that sees what is ahead to be dealt with, a third pair to watch out for his brothers, and another pair here in front that can look reassuringly at an injured victim and say, “You’ll be alright,” even when he knows it isn’t so.”

“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.”

“I can’t,” said the Lord, “I already have a model that can carry a 190 pound victim out of a burning building, has dedicated his life to helping people, and is willing to come to the aid of those threatened by the deadly force of fire.”

The angel circled the model of the firefighter very slowly, “Can it think?” the angel asked.

“You bet,” said the Lord. “It can tell you the elements of a hundred fires, the victims and rescues, and the importance of fire safety…. and still keep its sense of humor.

“This firefighter also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with fire scenes painted in hell, coax a trapped person or animal out of a burning building, and still go home and love his family.

“Being a firefighter is one of bravery, loyalty and devotion to public service. He is willing to put his life on the line every day to protect our homes and our loved ones from the devastating effects of fire, and sometimes, the honorable job of saving lives requires many firefighters to pay the ultimate price for their valor in the line of duty.”

Finally, the angel ran a finger across the cheek of the firefighter. “There’s a leak,” the angel pronounced. “I told you that you were trying to put too much in this model.”

“That’s not a leak,” the Lord said, “it’s a tear.”

“What’s the tear for?” asked the angel.

“It’s for bottled-up emotions, for fallen comrades, for the victims, and for commitment to that piece of cloth called the American flag.”

“You’re a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” he said.