Community Found in Sorrow

Funerals are a terrible — and wonderful — experience. This may strike some as controversial but anyone who was at the Angel Fire Community Center Friday (May 30) knows what we mean. Andy LeBus will never read these words but the memorial service did something important for the rest of us: It reminded us how lucky we are to live where we live.

Amy Sime, an attendee and friend of Andy’s, commented that whenever she is tempted to question her choice to live in the Moreno Valley, occasions like that one will serve as a reminder:  In small communities we are like one big extended family. We can come to care for the person we see every day at the post office, the grocery store, the fire department, the weddings, the funerals.…

Fire Department Chaplain Charles Wilson reminded us that grief is the price we pay for loving. This is true but, here’s the thing, some of us in the crowd didn’t know Andy well. We came to know him through the words of his friends and family members.

“We all learn from one another,” said Robin May, Andy’s longtime friend who acted as a sort of “MC” at the service. That day we learned what a loving father Andy was. What a fine example he set in his parenting, his work ethic, his zest for life and his willingness to help out whenever he could. Andy was a wildland firefighter and had trained many local volunteers. We learned that day what a beautiful fraternity firefighters have from the moment we saw his “honor guard.” We were deeply moved when the guard enacted the ceremonial “ringing of the bell” to symbolize Andy’s devotion to his duty and the end of his service as a firefighter. When Red River Dispatch called “Monte Verde One” three times on the radio and signed off with “Negative contact. Firefighter Andy LeBus has answered the last alarm. He is gone but not forgotten,” there was not a dry eye in the room.

Andy’s sister Mary said when someone goes too soon, “You realize how impermanent and how precious one’s lives are.”

To our friends in the Moreno Valley and beyond:  Thank you for being a part of our community.