Michael Todd Harris passed away Monday morning March 2, 2015 after a 2 1/2 year battle with throat cancer.
Boots was forced to retire from the Roanoke Fire / EMS Department due to his illness and his death is considered a Line Of Duty Death (LODD).
Boots Worked for me on C-shift, Station #13. He was our Senior Firefighter. He was a mentor to many. A Brother, son, husband, good friend and generous, unselfish, giving man. He was loved and will be missed by many!
I will write more about Boots, his fight and passing when I find the strength. Until that point, I wanted to share this as it has been at the front of my mind.
What you may not know is the love and passion I had for the English Arts and Literature in school (I know… you’d never tell it by my writing / speaking). Anyway, one of my favorite poets has always been Baxter Black, a Cowboy Poet.
He wrote a poem entitled “I know you’ll miss this man” and I can’t get it out of my head.
Without his permission, I’ve changed some of the words to fit Todd’s passing and wanted to share it with you all.
I wish you could hear Baxter reciting it but I couldn’t find video or audio of it. If you’ve ever heard him (or me) speak, just imagine one of us reading this to you… I hope it brings comfort.
I Know You’ll Miss This Man
By Baxter Black (edited by Willie Wines)
The Lord spoke to the heavy hearts that stood with hats in hand
“Your sadness pains me deeply and I know you’ll miss this man.
But, it’s true what you’ve been hearing, Heaven is a real place.
That’s no small consolation, You should use that fact to face.
The emptiness his parting left that seeps into your bones
And draw on it to ease your pain, For he is not alone.
You see, all his friends are up here and all his loved ones, too,
‘Cause it wouldn’t be a heaven without each one of you.
And heaven for a Fireman is just what you might expect,
It’s stations that need cleaning up and equipment that needs checked.
It’s long tours with a purpose and a code that lights the way
And a satisfying reason to get up every day.
It’s the assignment he’s always dreamed of and never knew he’d find.
And if you think about it, you can see it in your mind.
Him, sittin in the Engine with his helmet on his head,
Contentment set upon his face like blankets on a bed.
The leather creaks a little as he shifts there in the seat.
His air-pack gives a jingle as he rises to his feet.
And you somehow get the feelin’ that he’s sittin’ on a throne
A’gazin out on paradise just like it was his own.
I can promise you he’s happy, though I know you can’t pretend
You’re glad he made the journey, It’s too hard to comprehend.
The earthly way you look at things can never satisfy
Your lack of understanding for the answer to the ‘Why?’
So, I offer this small comfort to put your grief to rest,
I only take the Top Jakes ‘cause my crew’s the very best.
And I know it might seem selfish to friends and next of kin
But I needed one more fireman and ‘Ol Boots fit right in.”