Thanksgiving Dinner prayer

Rick Ryckeley's picture

The Boy celebrated his first Thanksgiving in the center of the fire department engine bay.

Still snuggled in the car carry-all I placed on the table, his big blue eyes took in all the festivities of the other firefighters and their families awaiting the Thanksgiving dinner prayer.

It seems that celebration long ago has had a lasting meaning in his life, something I will be forever thankful for.

We pulled the trucks around back that morning. Spent all day cleaning and mopping the bay floor while other firefighters knocked the perpetual cobwebs down from the ceiling.

We draped the tables with linen cloths adorned with fire trucks and Dalmatian dogs and then loaded them with homemade delectables that the children and firefighters would soon gobble down. All had been made ready for the family celebration.

It’s one of the oldest traditions in the fire service: to come together as a family around the dinner table and give thanks.

Every third day for 24 hours our lives are in each other’s hands. We’ve seen things only nightmares are made of, yet we keep climbing on the ambulances and fire trucks when the alarm sounds while the people in our county sleep, unaware of the mayhem outside their doors or just down their street.

Doctors in hospitals have entire emergency rooms behind them to help save a life. Firefighters have only the equipment we can carry in our hands.

We do it because ours is not just a job or a means to make money – it’s a calling. Firefighters are a family dependent on one another.

The Boy has joined me at the annual Thanksgiving dinner in the engine bay every year for the last 20, but not this time. Tonight, not even The Wife has come.

We pray every day as we leave our families that we will return safely after our shift. And if not, we pray that our lives will be lost saving someone so they can have many more Thanksgivings with their loved ones.

We’ve all taken the oath to do no harm, bring order to the disorder and make sure we keep your family safe, as well as our own.

You will not find more dedicated, caring people in any profession than those in the fire service.

I’ve been asked many times why I would crawl into a burning building to save a stranger or put myself in harm’s way on the side of a busy highway extracting a patient from a crushed vehicle.

My answer is simple – it’s a calling, one I heard long ago. One, at 50 years old, I’m proud to still be able to answer.

Last Saturday the fire department held its Thanksgiving dinner; The Wife couldn’t attend as she has done for the past 12. She was out of town on business, but she assured me I wouldn’t be alone.

I would be with my other family and, like always, they would take good care of me.

The Boy couldn’t come either, but he had a good reason. He’s working during the day, attending EMT school at night, studying hard to pass mid-terms. He said there was just no time.

I truly understand. Many years ago I was there also. He’s heard the calling and wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, and I couldn’t be more humbled or proud.

I’ve told him some of what awaits him down this path he’s chosen, but his new family will tell him the rest. As it should be, they will have to look after one another. My job of doing that is almost done.

One day soon, I pray, he will join that other family and years from now continue our holiday tradition — with his son snuggled in a car carry-all and placed on the table in the middle of a fire department engine bay somewhere, awaiting the Thanksgiving dinner prayer.

Or maybe this time it’ll be a daughter that carries on the tradition.

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