There is a saying in the fire department: "If you think being a firefighter is tough, try being a firefighter's wife." Being a firefighter's wife can be the most fun, truly exciting, and best thing in the world. My husband is respected and celebrated. He is thought of as a "hero" by many. Who wouldn't want that for their best friend?
But then, there are days like last Thursday and every day since...
At 8:30 at night the phone rings and the caller ID is some unknown wireless caller with an exchange from the other end of the state. I answer it to hear sirens wailing and after a pause my husband's voice, "Just needed you to know I'm okay. I think we're all okay."
At that point I do believe my heart stopped. I know my breathing did. Rachel and Samantha say that I replied, "What happened?" Sam then proceeded to breathlessly tell me that his fire engine had been hit broadside by another car; that they had somehow stayed upright, but they had crashed into trees. He told me that all four of the crew were going to the hospital to get checked out. Then he told me he loved me, and hung up.
For the next four hours I lay in bed, praying. I was finally able to speak with him again after midnight, when he told me that he was pretty bruised and his hip was really bothering him and that the engine driver broke several bones in his hand and will need surgery. After we talked a few more minutes, we said goodnight and I managed to sleep for a few hours. And when I woke up, I put on my toughness.
Being tough means I sit and hold his hand while the tears slip down his face as he thinks about the accident in 2007. The accident when his engine was hit by another firetruck and his captain was killed and two other crew members were so injured they never returned to the line. He pretends the tears aren't there and I pretend I don't see them.
Being tough means I tell him it's his decision about when he feels ready to return to work, when I really would just prefer he never go back.
Being tough means I let him tell me the pros and cons of transferring stations, again and again, and again, as he agonizes over what would be best for himself, his crew, and his family.
Being tough means I don't think about how many near misses he has had. How three times now, I have had phone calls like Thursday's.
And so now, nearly a week later, I am still hanging tough. Sam is healing. He can walk today much better than yesterday and the bruising on his hand is nearly faded away. The bruise on his arm is more yellow than purple now.
I know he will go back to work in a few days. Firefighting is in his blood. It's who he is. I will kiss him goodbye, tell him I love him and to "stay safe," like I always do. And I will pray. Pray that for the next 5-8 years before he retires, that God will continue to keep him safe and return him home after every shift.
Firefighters are tough; but their wives are stronger. And my God is mighty.