I pick up my book with trembling hands. “Thank you for being here. I’ve been speaking for the burn fund for a long time. Whenever I’m with you guys and our fire fighters it feels like coming home.”
“I’m going to read you a little of chapter 12 called ‘Home for Christmas’.”
Deep breath. My hands are still shaking. Keep still. But my hands won’t hear me.
I begin to read aloud from page 63. “Tinsel, wreaths and garlands…” On a hot July evening I read about going home for Christmas after being in the burn unit for 6 months. In front of me is a small audience of fire fighters and burn fund supporters. We’re on a large boat, big enough to hold many people, serve dinner, and pick up a gaggle of campers waiting on an island for us as we make our way across the ocean.
It’s quiet as I read. There is a smattering of applause when Peter is mentioned. Peter is the fire fighter who drove me home when snow had fallen hard in the Lower Mainland, making the roads slick and dangerous. My voice is steady but my hands continue to shake. This is the first time I have read my book aloud to a group of people. For years I’ve spoken to audiences large and small, telling my story, and I have never been this nervous, this raw.
I finish reading on page 66. I look up. “Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for listening.”
People are smiling and clapping. I look at my family, at Scott and my kids. Annie and Ben have never heard me give a speech. They’re too young to read my book, but they came with me today. I wanted them to be here, to be a part of what I do and meet kids who have suffered, who are spending a week at camp to have fun and be free. Ben jumps up from his chair. “Good speech, Mommy!” He wraps his arms around me tight. I squeeze him back, hard. “Thanks buddy.” I return to my seat beside Annie. Tears shine in her eyes. “Mommy, some of that was so sad. It makes me sad.” I pull her to me, rest my chin on the top of her head and breathe her in, shampoo and sunshine. “It’s okay. I know. But there is a happy ending.”
in the incredible people of the BC Professional Fire Fighters burn fund