The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, January 07, 2008

A firefighter’s hands

By Tamara Lee

Our good family friend Doug is a recently retired fireman, 6’2”, with hands the size of meat cleavers. Hands that have swung axes both fighting fires and building them; hands that have tirelessly laboured in his beloved garden; hands with reputations that precede his own ladies-man reputation; hands that accompany the telling of every funny tale or dirty joke, the story building momentum with the rolling motion.

Firefighters are often a complicated breed of human: choosing an occupation, for all manner of reasons, that has them facing death on a daily basis. So when one is about to pass, especially one as vital and fun-loving as Doug, succumbing to cancer blazing through his body at a 4-alarm rate, it’s humbling for all who know him.

And today, on this last day I’ll ever see my friend Doug, his hands moved in that familiar way as he tried to tell a tale, the telling stilted by an onslaught of pain medication and the football game on TV.

I don’t remember what he was trying to say, exactly; I was captivated watching those hands, knotty and calloused by hard living and loving and firefighting. Hands that I held before leaving, so fragile now, as the fireman and friend reached out trying to reassure that everything’ll be okay.

They say a fireman never really stops being a firefighter.

4 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Tamara. Beautiful, moving. I've just spent a minute looking at my own hands. I wish I was able to reach across the internet and give you a hug.

Mon Jan 07, 09:29:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Beautifully written, Tamara. I'm so sorry for your family's (and Doug's family's) loss. Saying goodbye is so difficult.

Mon Jan 07, 01:09:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Thanks, guys, for your kind words.

Tue Jan 08, 12:51:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Beautiful piece, Tamara. My uncle is a firefighter in Burnaby.

Tue Jan 08, 01:54:00 am GMT-5  

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