Throughout college, Michael worked as a volunteer fireman. The people he met there became more than friends, more than groomsmen. These guys became his brothers. At the center of this brotherhood there was P — the patriarch of the department, a member for something like 50 years. He was a grumpy old man, a curmudgeon — but that didn’t stop Michael from showing him respect and sitting at the table with him often to drink some coffee and shoot the breeze.

Yesterday, P lost his life from a freak accident at that very fire station. What followed was something I will never forget.

Word spread like wildfire that by the time he reached the hospital, his time was limited. Men of all ages — from college to mid-life — left work, left home, left their vacations, got military leave and even got on a plane from Afghanistan…to say their goodbyes. Over the years, P had touched so many lives — so many classes of men that walked through those department doors.

I was not at the hospital to witness this, but Michael said he had never seen anything like it. More than sixty men — many still in their work uniforms (varieties of police and fire) converged on the hospital. So many came to pay tribute to P, that the hospital gave them their very own conference room. Michael said there was not a dry eye in the house.

The sudden accident left everyone reeling. And put into perspective how precious life really is. I didn’t know P very well. We’ve said hello over the years and attended the same functions. While I mourn for his life, I hurt more for the wife and son he left behind. The ones that said goodbye as he walked out the door in the morning without a clue it would be the last time.

I cried yesterday. I cried for P and his family, I cried because I am so lucky to  have my husband come home to me.

I can only hope one day I will be so lucky to have so many people celebrate my life.

“…for life is short, but sweet for certain.”