Like many toddlers, Jackson loved fire trucks. He loved seeing them roar by when we were out and about, fascinated with the lights and sirens. He’d point and say “fire truck! Wee-ooo-Wee-ooo” (in his sweet, excited toddler voice), watch it go by with intent fascination, and then look at me and say, “Again!”, to which I would always reply, “Fire truck had to go bye-bye but maybe we will see one later.” We would often hear them from our house when the windows were open and he would cup his hand around his ear, something we taught him to do to hear better. But of course he was ever so cutely unintentionally covering his ear instead.
Jackson had fire truck toys and shirts and books. He loved to drive his trucks around the house, imitating their sound. When he resisted getting dressed for school in the morning, I often employed the “choice of alternatives” strategy by saying “Do you want to wear your stripes shirt or your fire truck shirt?!?” Worked like a charm every time.
One of Jackson’s favorite books was “If My Love Were a Fire Truck”, a story about the powerful love between a father and his son. It’s the book Bryan read to him on the last night. Three weeks before Jackson died I walked in on him reading it to himself. The video (below) is beautiful snapshot of his lovely spirit, incredible comprehension, and adorable speech (Drums go boom! Ride the horse! Ride/drive the truck! Lion goes rawr!). What I didn’t realize at the time is that the ending was a painful premonition of what was to come. As Jackson explains in the video, the story ends with a father hugging his baby goodnight, saying “I love you”, and then the fire truck goes “wee-ooo-wee-ooo” and “The End”. It’s a poignant yet eerily precise, moment-by-moment description of his last night and last morning with us.
This is what I wrote to Sergeant Tony Lucero, the incredible fire fighter who came to our aid that morning after the 911 call, in a thank you card a few weeks back:
“Thank you for your service on the most tragic and horrific morning of our lives. Although many details from that day feel muddled in my mind, I will never forget the respect and kindness you showed us that morning. You delivered the worst possible news to us on that lawn outside our house in the gentlest, most straightforward way possible. And you came back later to hold my hand and tell me, with watery eyes, how as a parent you were so truly sorry for our loss. Although I wish we never had to meet that morning, I am grateful it was you who responded to our call. Jackson loved fire trucks. Although your trucks and sirens carry a whole new meaning for me now, I’ll do my best to remember the way his face lit up when he would see one.”
During the chaotic blur of that morning, I just kept having the strange thought, “Where is Jackson to see this firetruck on his very own street?!”. In some parallel universe where he hadn’t died, I imagined us sitting at the window ledge together watching it, the lights, the sirens. But the tragic irony of it all is that it was there for him, because of him, as a result of his death and inability to ever see one or hear on again. I don’t know quite how to convey how immensely painful that fact felt in that moment.
I still try to remember his sweet excited face when I hear sirens but I will admit I just can’t. Sirens are a signal that something is wrong, someone is in danger. And I hear them everywhere. I can’t quite figure out whether there really are more sirens, or whether I am just more sensitive to hearing them, but they feel like constant reminders (5-8 times a day) of how fragile life is and how commonly it’s threatened or taken away. I don’t think anyone’s misfortune can ever really be a source of joyful memory for me anymore.
I don’t know how to wrap this entry up in a positive way and I will resist the urge to try. I just miss my Jackson and his (our) love for fire trucks. And I am so grateful for all of the incredible firefighters out there who come to the rescue of people like us on the worst days of our lives.