Not the back 40, hay filled, stall-mucking type.
The Captain type. The fallen hero. The angel among us. Fire Department Captain, Joel Barnes.
Just over a week ago, our local small town of Berwick, Maine experienced an unimaginable loss in a fire that spun out of control.
When you live in small towns such as this, most fire departments are volunteer. The towns are rural, spread out, and usually pretty quiet all things considered. Structure fires are somewhat of a rarity, nevermind a 4-alarm fire.
If you do one quick Google search on the subject, you'll find everything you'll need to know. The story, the coverage. What you may not find, is the heart of the matter.
This loss shook us to our core. It caused an emotional roller coaster within us, as we were rather close to the matter at hand. Our very own brother, involved in the scene.
You can't imagine the fear that strikes when the call comes in, during the middle of a perfectly clear, sunny Friday afternoon. No storms, no wind. A clear blue sky. You cannot know how out of breath our lungs were, sprinting from our desks to our cars, and screaming down the highway to the ER. You can't fathom the number of times we thanked God when we heard he was burned, but okay. Breathing. You cannot bear the depth of our gratitude, humbling moments, chills, and sorrow when we heard that another fireman had passed, protecting him so that he could live.
Life is precious and valuable, and there's no time like the present to be who you want to be, to try, to live the life you want to live. There is no better time than now to make sure you appreciate those around you that you care for. So quickly, they can be gone.
We've experienced this ourselves at the homestead with livestock losses, as well as with our family, all too often lately. Due to these experiences, we can confidently say that one never really knows how much time there is. We have now come to expect the unexpected on a daily basis because life is unpredictable. If you can find a way to make peace with that, you'll be better off.
Now is the perfect time, to tell someone how much you love them, or reach out to a friend. Now is the perfect time to embrace and be glad that you are both still there. Now is the right time to let go of things that are weighing you down or making you bitter. Now is the time to put yourself out there, without hesitation, and make some dreams realities.
The gravity of how few trips around the sun there really are hit us hard this year - though, every time it has come to light, it has given us further reason to feel good about all the things we are doing. The Homestead Husband grew up dreaming of the day he'd have his own farm - it may not be big, but we decided that we better start right now if we want a shot at it. Life is far too short to wait to start your journey. Capt. Barnes lived his dream day in and day out - as a boy he knew his calling as a member of the fire service, and he went ahead and made it real.
In more ways than one, we are eternally grateful, forever indebted, and fervently thankful for the sacrifice Captain Barnes made for our family. There is truly no way to fully express our respect for his actions and the person he was. His memory will live on forever with us, as a constant reminder to cherish one another, not take things for granted, to work hard, and to love harder. Sharing his story, living his legacy, and hugging each other a little bit longer will be our continued practice from here on out. Thank you for the extraordinary reminder to be in the present - we've got it from here, Captain Barnes. Rest peacefully.