"Hold Onto My Coattails"

A young firefighter was set to work his first fire. As he was starting to go into the burning building, his captain looked at him and said, “If you get into trouble, just hold onto my coattails.”

The young firefighter never forgot this. (And while I’m not quite certain of details through the years, I’m pretty sure that when he became a veteran firefighter, he would have said the same thing to new firefighters.)

Years passed and the young firefighter was no longer young, but a veteran firefighter. One day he went to the hospital to visit his old captain.

The captain was not old, but weak from the sickness that was so rapidly taking over his body. He spent most of his days sleeping.

The veteran firefighter walked up to the bed and said, “Hey, Chapman, can I hold onto your coattails?”

And Chapman replied, “No. I’m going to hold onto yours.”

A few weeks later, my uncle passed away, but that story has stuck with me every single day since I heard it. (I don’t remember who told me the story. I just remember it was at the funeral home, and that it made me cry.)

My uncle was just like that. As aggravating as he could be with picking on us, he would do anything for any one of us. He loved us with every ounce of his being and I know that if I needed him for anything, I could “hold onto his coattails”.

While I know I no longer have my uncle’s coattails to hold onto, I am very lucky to have others should I need it. While it may take me a while to get to the point of grabbing on to those coattails (I can be stubborn and sometimes withdrawn.), have no doubts that I will. And I hope you would, too.

There are times when life is going to be a burning building. It’s going to be hot and dark and smoky. And it will be so easy to get lost in that hot, dark smoke. What you have to realize is that we all have a “captain” right in front of us willing to lend us his or her coattails.

All we have to do is grab them. And while your captains can’t make the hot or the dark or the smoke go away, they will be there, and they will pull you through.

“If you get into trouble, just hold onto my coattails.”

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*Lissa* said...

Aw, great story! Love this!

Anonymous said...

When my grandfather passed in December my brother found this poem framed in the guest room of his house and it became our "mantra" of sorts.

James Whitcomb Riley's poem:
Good Man

A good man never dies--
In worthy deed and prayer
And helpful hands, and honest eyes,
If smiles or tears be there:
Who lives for you and me--
Lives for the world he tries
To help--he lives eternally.
A good man never dies.

Who lives to bravely take
His share of toil and stress,
And, for his weaker fellows' sake,
Makes every burden less,--
He may, at last, seem worn--
Lie fallen--hands and eyes
Folded--yet, though we mourn and mourn,
A good man never dies.

Christy M. said...

Beautiful post, April. Love it so much.

Jessica said...

That is just so lovely. I wish I'd met your uncle; he sounds like a man worth knowing.

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I'm a walking contradiction. While I love to draw, paint and read, I also love all things gadgets, science and even science fiction (I know). My animals (two dogs and two birds) are my heart, and if I could figure out how to legally own a giraffe, I would. That all said, I have my BS in Mathematics. :o)


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