On Being a First Responder’s Wife

A child often contemplates what they would like to be when they grow up. Usually, it’s prompted by annual school projects while learning about community members, or during parent career days. Sometimes, it’s the visit to an auntie or uncle’s house that prompts the questions from relatives. Occasionally, a child will daydream of being a knight in shining armor, a master Lego builder, or even an inventor of all things beneficial to kids. But those dreams are usually put to rest by well-meaning grown ups who might utter those fateful words, “That’s not a REAL job. You should be a ….”

Some children grow up to the wise advice of these grown ups, becoming the jewel of their family’s eye, following in the family business, or becoming successful in something like medicine, or law, making the years of student loans worth it.

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Some children can get past the expectations of the world and find their true selves, becoming an innovative pioneer in a whole new field of work, maybe creating new technology, or developing their creativity in music or art.

As for me, when I was I child, one of my many dreams was to the first female firefighters on the island. As my luck would always have it, someone got to it before me. But I was okay with it, I settled for being “one of the first” instead. From the balcony of my apartment, I could see the fire station a block away, and every time I heard the sirens, I jumped up to watch the lights flash, and hear the sirens wail, as the truck sped down the road. I’d scan the city for any sign of smoke, and once in a while, I’d catch a glimpse of the emergency.

Of course, being a firefighter was one of many different future jobs I wanted to pursue.  I also wanted to be the first female basketball player in the NBA. (Hey, if Muggsy Bogues could do it, so could I!) The list also included ice cream flavor inventor, police officer, paramedic, veterinarian, coast guard officer, teacher, doctor, astronaut, and zookeeper. But somehow fighting fires and saving lives always held a soft spot in my heart. And in all honesty, fire fascinated me.

But what I find even more fascinating is that my future husband had that same dream in his heart. In fact, it was his only dream, and his passion brought him to that very station down the street from my home to spend some of the very last days of his childhood training for the man he was about to become.

My own passions would lead me through a few careers before I literally sat down and became the writer I’m meant to be. And my husband is now in his seventeenth year in the fire department. I’ve known him for his entire career, and I can tell you that as cool as I think that job would still be, I’m glad he’s the one doing it because when it comes to mechanics and engineering, well, that’s just not my cup of tea.

But having a firefighter husband means also being a firefighter’s wife.

One could take a look at us and say oh, how wonderful it is that he has such a respectable job and he is so selfless in serving the community. And, yes, there is no doubt about it that it takes a special person to run towards danger when everyone else is running away. But there is so much more that comes with the sacrifice.

Because the sacrifice is for real. On a daily basis.

Not too long ago, our department lost a man on duty. He wasn’t fighting a fire. He wasn’t on the rescue team in a chopper nor did he fall in the dense forest. He wasn’t on a call. He was fatally injured during a training exercise. My heart still breaks for his family – his wife – who kissed him goodbye that day not know it would be the last.

It’s a somber reminder that any day (for anyone, not just first responders, but anyone), today can be your last here on earth. But for the wife of a man who runs towards danger in his line of service, it tugs on my heart that this man is more than willing to lay his life down for another.

He doesn’t often tell me the details in his work, and I don’t wish him to. But I can specifically recall at least two occasions when I got on my knees to thank the Lord that he was brought home safely, because the opportunity was there for God to call him home. Had just one thing gone differently, one thing gone missing, or had the fire moved to a different room, his story, my story, our story would be completely different right now.

Occasionally, I’ll become complacent and forget that his job carries such weight. I’ll skip a kiss or a hug because I’m still getting the kids’ lunches ready. Or I’ll be consumed in a book when he arrives home after his long shift, and neglect to get myself off the couch to welcome him home. But then God sends me gentle reminders – and sometimes not so gentle – and I remember how precious life is. Any life. Every life.

I realize that even if my husband didn’t have the career he does. Even if he were a businessman, bus driver, or garbage man, there is a time when God will call you home. When He feels your work here is done, it will be time. And wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, and children will have no say in the matter. It’s all part of the grander story, and we have to believe that it is all for good.

So in the time that I have with my husband here on this earth, I will embrace every moment as a gift. His gift. Because life can be taken away with the snap of the fingers, and I’ve been so blessed to have the amount of time I’ve been given, no matter how long or short it is.

My friends, I encourage you to love each other with every ounce of your being – especially your spouses – because our time with each other here on earth will never be as long as we want. Because we want forever. But that can’t happen in real life. At least not here on earth.

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This post originally appeared at JenniferTanaka.com.


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Jenn Tanaka
Jennifer Tanaka is a wife and mother of three, residing in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she was born and raised. A blogger and writer, Jennifer also enjoys photography, cooking, and exploring the beauty of the islands with her family when she can. You can catch her sharing her insights and snapshots of life on her blog, Perfectly Imperfect (www.jenniferltanaka.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jenniferltanaka), or on Instagram (@jenniferltanaka, or www.instagram.com/jenniferltanaka).