I just attended the funeral of a dear friend in Kansas City. He was my brother-in-law, a dedicated husband, a faithful Christian and a fireman… specifically, a fire chief.
It wasn’t too long ago that this robust outdoorsman was diagnosed with ALS, a horrible disease that relentlessly destroys the body’s motor functions. It attacked his muscles until he was confined to a motorized wheelchair, maneuvered with the little mobility he had left in his right hand. He needed a hoist to get him from his chair to bed at night.
Yet, through all of this, he didn’t complain.
He was excited and looking forward to being with the Lord, but he was never focused on himself. Instead, he was always interested in the well being of others.
A woman attending the funeral came because Dennie had once saved her life… carrying her out of a burning building. What was remarkable about this was that no one in the family had ever heard the story.
Dennie never told it.
I think if I had saved someone’s life, I would probably find a way to bring it up in conversations. I would want people to know that I had been a hero, courageously charging into an inferno, risking my life, searching for the desperate, and valiantly fighting my way out carrying a helpless woman from sure death to fresh air and the breath of life.
I would probably tell people all about it. Over and over again.
But not Dennie.
He talked occasionally about the baby that he failed to save, but not the ones he did.
You see, from his perspective, life wasn’t about him. It was always about the other person.
Dennie and I married sisters and they both love to shop in the kind of stores that have the most detailed, intricate, artsy, craftsy doohickeys. You know the places I’m talking about. There are thousands of little trinkets in these stores… maybe hundreds of thousands or millions.
These are places that I can walk into and be done in less than a minute. If I stay in them any longer I get some kind of a sensory overload. My heart begins to race, my breathing gets shallow, and my vision begins to tunnel. It’s akin to rabid claustrophobia or morbid water torture.
I remember the first time the four of us were out together and we happened upon one of these horror chambers. The girls went inside and within a minute Dennie and I were sitting outside on the benches that every proprietor of these stores provides for husbands. I said something like “I hate these places.” And then I looked at Dennie and he had one of the biggest smiles on his face. He said,
“Oh, I love them!”
“Sure, because Elaine loves them and I really enjoy seeing her happy.”
Happy making other people happy. Happy taking them to a trinket store or happy saving their life from a burning house.
Just another day living life right.
No big deal.
Dennie and I sat outside of doodad shops from the Caribbean to Alaska and he was always consistent, always thinking of Elaine, always thinking of the other person.
There were five fire engines outside the funeral home. Inside, a fireman guarded Dennie’s remains. A host of firemen were present, paying their respects to a highly respected man. They read the fireman’s creed and then rang the bell for the last time.
Well done good and faithful servant.
See you soon.