Saturday, January 21
You've Finished Well - Captain Klassen
I will never forget the day. It was a day that we were getting ready to go on a holiday to Banff.
To be honest, I am not sure why or how I found the ad that said the City of Wpg was hiring. But I remember bringing to Alvin’s attention. He was currently working at a lumber yard, and in charge of the hardware dept. I should note that up to this time he had never expressed any interest in trying out for the fire department. However this news brought some excitement.
We went on our trip, and came back and began to get things in order for him to apply.
Driver’s Abstract, and his report card from Grade 12 (not so great I might add!) He went to apply, and then went through the physical testing, and then the stress testing, and then an interview. We prayed that if this was God’s will, he would move forward in the steps toward hiring. Then we heard in late fall that his file was being put on hold for the time being, as they had filled the class. While we were disappointed, we trusted God and continued on with our lives.
Fast forward to the next summer. My sister had come over to our house (we lived side by side in the country) and our phone rang, so she answered it. She told me she said she was the housecleaner! She quickly called me to say that Alvin had been put into the next class to begin in September, and that he needed to call. We were so surprised. We had pretty much thought that we would not hear from the department and had just carried on with life.
At that time, back in 1986, he didn’t have to go away to Fire School in Brandon like our son did. No, the city outfitted each person, and they were put on payroll the first day that their school began. Quite different than now. Alvin studied hard. I remember those days, as I was working, and also studying myself for my ECE III. AND we had a four year old and a one year old. When he graduated, he was honored for being the top of his class! WOW, who would have thought with the report card evidence from grade !2!! The night we celebrated with the class at Mother Tuckers, we were so surprised to come out a couple hours later and find a full blown snow storm happening - November 6, 1986. We barely made it home.
Alvin’s career has been full, like every other firefighter. But there were a few things that I think made Alvin stand out. One thing was that he had this thing about him and he was often teased in those days about being the guy who was seen reassuring the little old lady by holding her hand, or by talking out life with an inebriated person, or just chatting with people who had needs. I witness this myself often, as people would just walk over to him. I believe it was because he was kind, loving and fair. Years of being in the inner city could have hardened him, but yet he continued to do his job with the love of Christ shining through him.
I know that each family, and each firefighter may deal with what they see in different ways. Some drink to deal with the hard stuff. That was never Alvin’s thing. I don’t believe there was ever a day when I didn’t ask him how his day was, and that he shared. I did not mind hearing the stories. Not that they were always easy to hear - because they weren’t. However, I knew that the fact that we were married, we were in this all together. And the stories were hard. His first suicide. Suicides were always hard. Accidents that happened because someone was drunk. Those were hard especially when the drunk walked away, and the inn cent one died, or was in critical. I remember him talking about the hard calls - those that involved babies. Those were never easy. NEVER. And after we lost our Jay, these calls took on an even harder time.
When Josh was five, he said he wanted to be a firefighter. At the age of 20 he graduated as a Fire Medic (I hope I have that right) and I was so proud! Two men in blue shirts ... two men that were serving others. Thing is, never would I have expected that there would be deep pain either, as both Josh and Alvin were involved in accidents that were tragic. While they were 8 years apart, both included someone being hit by a firetruck and killed. Both accidents happened on the same street just a block or two apart. While Alvin was there for Josh in 2003, in 2011 Josh was there for his dad in the same way. What are the odds of that happening - two tragedies involving two firefighters in the same family?
You know, I never worried about the boys. It was their job, and God knew about them. I didn’t worry. Okay, maybe once in a while, but not normally. They saved lives, fought fires. They rushed in when people would be rushing out. Yes, I prayed for them, but I didn’t worry. I just entrusted them to the LORD.
Today, Alvin finished. He shared that there were a few times this morning when we were taking pictures, that it felt pretty emotional. Of course it would. You don’t leave a long career without feeling emotional! This was his life. This was his crew. This was his decision that now was the time. He was not yet retirement age, but he wanted to finish well and after talking about it for a year, he finally picked a date and got the ball rolling. It was his choice but still, it was a hard choice. He was leaving a “family” behind, and would not live through the stories of his son from here on in. He will see firefighters from time to time, but it would be different. Life carries on. The sense of belonging changes. He has moved from 2 Platoon to 5 Platoon. He will see firetrucks rushing to calls and know that he has finished rushing. He will go to bed knowing he will never be woken up during the night by another gong just when he was deep in sleep. He will never have to revive a child, or go to the scene that involved shattered lives and tragedy. That will not mean that those memories fade - they will always be there.
The good. The bad. AND the ugly. This was his calling. But now, he has hung up his helmut, given back his turnout gear, and walked out of the hall just after the firetruck left on a call.
It was a choice to retire now. While still healthy, and young. It was his choice, but that doesn’t mean it is an easy one.
It has been a great 3 decades of service. A number of halls, and a ton of firefighters who he worked with and got to call comrade. A number of calls and a number of hours spent talking with people and lately writing reports on the computer. He knew he wanted to leave while things were good. I have a feeling that even if he had stayed for a few more years, thing would have been good then too.
But today he finished. We took pictures. The kids brought smiles to his face. The name was taken off his turnout gear, and his city of Winnipeg tag was put into a bag along with everything else that was to be handed in. Captain Klassen chose to finish his firefighting career at the age of 58, and only God knows what is ahead, but he is looking forward to the next adventure, after a few tears are shed!
Alvin, my sweet man, you have finished well.
And I am so proud of you!
Go forward to the next adventure - with God, with me, and with your family by your side.
I love you -
You’ve served well Captain Klassen!!
at 11:15 PM