Respecting the pledge

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manager

As a sign of respect, a huge American flag was stationed at the entrance of the The Park Huntersville.

As a sign of respect, a huge American flag was stationed at the entrance of the The Park Huntersville.

One of our bravest died a few weeks ago. 

A long-time volunteer firefighter and Assistant Chief for the Matthews Fire & EMS Department, Derek Layman spent his last days at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville (LDHH-H).  Just 35 years old, he lost his fight against cancer and, as a result, we lost a fine, young, upstanding man whose life was devoted to the safety of others.  Derek had recently received the L.H. Yandle Award, given each year to the most outstanding member of the Matthews Fire & EMS Department.  He was also presented with an Honorary Lifetime Membership with the department, the first person ever to receive the distinction.  Derek devoted twelve years of his life to this volunteer job.  He obviously loved it a great deal.

And the affection was whole-heartedly returned.  I’m not talking just about the fire department in Matthews.  I mean firefighters everywhere.  Firefighting is a true kinship, a unique clan of men (and women!) who trust each other implicitly.  They have to — putting themselves in harm’s way (as they often do) means they can’t afford to question whether or not a teammate is looking out for them.  It’s simply understood.  They work together, spend time together, and they have each others’ backs.  They are family, in every sense of the word.

That’s why, when it came time to take Derek from LDHH-H to the funeral home, it wasn’t a quiet, solitary ride.  It was a procession. 

Various trucks and vehicles from both the Matthews and Huntersville fire departments were on hand to accompany the hearse to its final destination.  The vehicles snaked all the way from the front entrance of the building, down along the side of the hospice house.  They took off together, carrying their precious cargo, lights flashing the entire way.  And, to top it all off, a firetruck with a tall ladder was stationed at a point along the route, an enormous American flag waving with respect as the procession went by.

Before the line of vehicles took off, LDHH-H chaplain Darryl Jefferson read the Fireman’s Prayer.  It ends like this:

 “I want to fill my calling
And give the best in me,
To guard my every neighbor
And protect their property.

And if according to your will
I should lose my life,
Please bless with your protecting hand
My children and my wife.”

Derek didn’t lose his life in a fire, but he perhaps showed even more courage in the fight that he did lose.  As a seasoned fireman, he was undoubtedly prepared to encounter a blaze that would cause him to make the ultimate sacrifice.  After all, that’s a risk of the job, right?  You know that going in.  But no one prepares for cancer.  That is a battle of the unknown and Derek faced it bravely, as every firefighter would. 

Did you know that there is also a firefighter’s pledge?  It says, “I promise strength – strength of heart to bear whatever burdens might be placed upon me.  Strength of body to deliver to safety all those placed within my care.”  So that’s what his comrades — his firefighter family — did.  Derek was placed within their care, and they stayed with him until the last possible minute, honoring that sacred pledge.  They delivered him to safety.  And they did it in style.

Rest in peace, Derek.

Explore posts in the same categories: end of life, hospice, Levine & Dickson Hospice House

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4 Comments on “Respecting the pledge”

  1. lgf3 Says:

    Tears and goosebumps…

  2. Anngie Williams Says:

    I salute Derek Laymen……….Rest In Peace!

  3. Linda Turner Says:

    A beautiful tribute to a wonderful young man.

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