No Surprises: navigating tragedy with faith, family and the FDNY

Chapter 3  Manhattan, Meetings and Memorials (first draft)


Through the years, one of the discussions Bruce and I had was about funerals especially in light of being a Christian and the possibility of a line of duty death. We both agreed that if we truly believed what we said we believed then when one of us died it better be different. If we believed in eternal life than our life and death should reflect that belief. We disagreed on line of duty funerals. I felt the presence of the city officials and all of pomp and circumstance really had nothing to do with the deceased and/or their family. I felt it was impersonal and intrusive. Once after a rather heated discussion on that matter I had told Bruce “I don’t want the mayor at your funeral. He doesn’t even know you.”

Bruce responded, “That’s your problem because I won’t be there. I’ll be dead.”

In the past week or so, I experienced the power and strength of the “brotherhood” and even though I didn’t understand it I wanted to respect it. I wanted to do what Bruce as a firefighter would have wanted but I also wanted to do what was right for our family. My pastor, family and friends all had input about the service but the main voice I listened to was my own, Emily’s and Meghan’s. We decided a Saturday would be best – Saturday September 29. The location won’t be our home church as I didn’t want the girls remembering Daddy’s service every Sunday. Maranatha Church of the Nazarene in Paramus, New Jersey was more centrally located. Bruce and I were married at Maranatha when it was in New Milford before the move to the bigger location. Emily was the first baby dedicated in the new building so Maranatha offered a sense of home without being our home church.

People were resuming their normal lives. We were slowly putting one foot in front of the other. Still living in the immediate – what needs to be accomplished today. Most days Emily and Meghan went to school. My home church set up a schedule for meals and an information source on the church website. Carol organized postponing the start of classes at the studio. I contacted the YWCA Childcare Center and Wyckoff Christian Preschool, where I also taught, to postpone starting until the first week of October. Christine and I tried to figure out what needed to be done for the service and life in general.

Squad 41 was calling twice a day. Firefighters were still arriving on my doorstep. One afternoon the Captain from Squad 41 and a few of the firefighters came to the house. We all set round the kitchen table, drank coffee and they offered the assurance that they were doing their best to find “the guys.” Two firefighter friends, both named Jim, came one evening and shared stories which brought laughter from my girls. A welcomed sound.

Pastor Steve suggested a worship folder for the Memorial service that would include the order of service, Bruce’s obituary, photos and messages from the girls and I to Bruce. We wanted the service to celebrate Bruce’s life and bring glory to God. We carefully choose the songs and readings. The girls and I discussed who we would like to participate.  Bruce’s mom pastor was invited to participate as well as other pastors and friends. Mom Van Hine supplied some childhood photos. We sorted through albums and boxes to find photos to tell Bruce’s life story not only as a firefighter but as a hiker, tree guy and most importantly as a son, brother, husband, father and friend.

Instead of a guest book for people to register their attendance, we included a printed postcard with our address on one side and a place to share a memory or thought on the other. A basket to leave the postcards in is a good idea. What am I going to wear? What are the girls going to wear? Should we have a bag piper? What about a reception afterwards?  Cheesecake and coffee? Do I really have to do this?