It's a weird sort of quiet heavy spirit that seems to hang over this community I live in.  I have only lived here for 2 months.  I haven't developed deep relationships here yet.  I don't have a geographic root system that runs to my soul in Prescott, Arizona.  This is not my place of origin nor where I have spent the better part of my life.  I am though moved and heavy with the sense of loss all around me. It is palpable.

I didn't know, in a relational sense, any of the 19 hotshot firefighters killed on Yarnell hill on Sunday, June 30th. I only know the impact of their jobs on our very dry environment and the loss of them in this community  The only connection I have is through other people who knew them. I have heard some of their stories and seen the tears of those telling their stories. Their lives and job were in the public service job arena.  That makes them automatically connected to the community at large.  Overtly and covertly they were and are our protective layer, the buffer between tragedy or its possibility and us.

There is a constant here right now, grief.  I've heard it in the voices of people who have told me of their connection to those men.  It is the topic of conversation, the commonality among every interaction with friends, loved ones and even virtual strangers.  In the mix of words, in the conversations that take place the words are always;  how does something like this happen, how could not one in that group of 19 survive, what happened on that mountain, they were young and had their whole lives in front of them.

I cannot concise God to easy answers and clich├ęs that reduce His bigness down to fit into our human need to understand all things.  God is always present.  Knowing that is true means that He is present in life and death, present in our sufferings, present in our grief and present in circumstances that leave a swathe of destruction and pain a mile wide and deep. 

No one knows what happened exactly Sunday afternoon when that monsoon wind switched on and turned the fire on a dime.  Weather and wind are not containable or predictable or even able to be contended with at times.  They are not things that human hands and systems created.  So much of life is out of our control and the loss of 19 men on a mountain fighting a fire that was of control is a vivid picture of that.

I wonder other things about those men, really about all of us when faced with knowing our death is upon us.  I wonder if they had a few moments or minutes, even in the chaos that was probably there, to know God was with them?  Did they call out to Him?  Did they have frank words and make peace with the Creator of the universe and the only other person who could be with them at that moment?

My brother-in-law is a full-time career firefighter back in Indiana.  I have seen up close and personal the life of a firefighter, the schedule they keep, the time away from family and the band of brother life that is created with their comrades.  The firefighter community is something to be envied, especially by men.  It flies against a man's nature to seek deep, rich and connective relationships with other men.  But by force and by choice these guys create a sub culture that blows the lid off the stereotypical view of non-relational males. 

Much like farmers are tied to the earth, to nature, to the soil, firefighters have a thing in their blood - being a firefighter.  They are addicted to the adrenaline, the challenge, the lifestyle,the power to alter or aid in tragedy and eventually the brotherhood that it creates. 

If I were to get to choose how I could die, it would be doing something I loved.  It does not make those men's deaths less tragic.  It does not take away the pain such catastrophic loss leaves, it though frames it with pieces of grace.  I find that God always weaves it in somehow.  It's a vivid and needed contrast to pain and sorrow and suffocating grief.

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