They knew going in that it was an extremely dangerous job, and that they could lose their lives. That is the extraordinary thing. They knew going in.
And still, they did it. They went into that Arizona wildfire. And 19 of those incredibly brave firefighters died in the service of their fellow humans. The loss -- for their families, for their fellow firefighters, for their community, their state and their nation -- is almost unbearable. We keen and we ponder: What is the meaning of this? If there is a God, why did He not protect these, His bravest and most courageous? Why did they have to die?
The Conversations with God cosmology offers us, on this topic, a message difficult to embrace and challenging to even repeat. Yet I must do so here, if I am to remain true to the messages that have been given to me to send.
They did not "have to" die. We are told in Home With God: In a Life That Never Ends that "no one dies at a time or in a way that is not of their choosing."
Can this be true? If it is true, how and why did those 19 Arizona firefighters make such a "choice?"
As we consider this, it must first be understood that this was not a conscious choice. Clearly, by every normal human measure, these men did not wish to die, did not seek to end their lives, did not choose to perish. So the statement above from Home with God refers to a choosing that is done not by the conscious mind, but at the level of soul.
I cannot know, and will not presume to state, the reasons, in each individual case, why these souls made the choice to leave the Earth in this way last Sunday. But I do know that these 19 souls allowing their lives to end in the service of others as they did places before us an indelible statement of Who They Are -- and a testament to who we all are at the core of our being.
It has been said that survival is the basic instinct of human beings. The Conversations with God messages tell us otherwise. They tell us that the survival instinct is not our fundamental impulse, but that our prime desire is to express our divinity. That is why some people -- most people -- find themselves doing extraordinarily brave things when the lives of others are on the line.
We step between the child who has wandered off the curb and the bus about to hit her. We jump on top of the man who has fallen from the subway platform just before the roaring train passes overhead. We run into the burning building in response to the cries for help -- or into the blazing wildfire in response to the pleadings to protect the lives and dearest possessions of others.
This is Who We Are, this species we call Humanity. And some of our species demonstrate Who We All Are so that all of us may know who we really are, may remember who we are, underneath our fears. Some of us demonstrate what it means to be Divine so that all of us may have a model, may have a way of seeing in action, may have living proof, of the goodness and love for each other of which we are all capable, if we would but embrace that part of our nature and stop thinking, first, of ourselves.
This is the spiritual message that I received as I pondered the death of those Arizona Angels: Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher Mackenzie, 30; Eric Marsh, 43; Grant McKee, 21; Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin, 24; Anthony Rose, 23; Jesse Steed, 36; Joe Thurston, 32; Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Warneke, 25; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; and Garret Zuppiger, 27.
We can all pledge to them this day to use their acts of valor and selflessness as inspiration to live our own lives as free as we possibly can of self-interest first, of self-preservation first, of simple selfishness first and to reflect as best we can the impeccable demonstration they have given us of the true greatness of the human spirit, the true love that resides in the human heart and the true glory of the human soul.
Sometimes it takes a great tragedy to wake us up to the unspeakable glory of Who We Really Are, to shake us loose from the moorings of our fears and our self-serving limitations, setting us free to sail again the seas of our souls' wondrous journey back home. In humble gratitude for what they have shown us of what it truly means to be greatly human, we today honor and salute those Arizona firefighters, and we choose and announce by our oath that their demonstration shall not be in vain.