In Phoenix, Arizona, a 26-year-old mother stared lovingly at her son. He was six years old but dying, of terminal leukaemia. Although her heart was filled with sadness, she was determined to remain strong. Like any parent, she had wanted her son to grow up and fulfil his lifetime dreams.
Sadly, that no longer seemed possible; the leukaemia would see to that. But she still wanted her son’s big dream to come true. She took her son’s hand and once again asked, “Billy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grew up? Did you ever dream and wish what you would do with your life?” “Mommy, I always wanted to be a fireman when I grew up,” he said. Mom smiled back and said, “Let’s see if we can make your wish come true!”
Later that day and very down-hearted, Mom went to her local fire department in Phoenix, Arizona. She met Fireman Bob, who had a heart as big as Phoenix. She explained to him her son’s final wish and asked if it might be possible to give Billy, a ride around the block on a fire engine. Fireman Bob said, “Look, we can do better than that. If you’ll have your son ready at seven o’clock on Wednesday morning, we’ll make him an Honorary Fireman for the whole day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards,” Bob announced. “And if you’ll give us his sizes, we’ll get a real fire uniform for him, with a real fire hat – not a toy one, with the emblem of the Phoenix Fire Department on it, a yellow slicker like we wear and rubber boots. They’re all manufactured right here in Phoenix, so we can get them fast.”
Three days later Fireman Bob picked up Billy, dressed him in his uniform and escorted him from his hospital bed to the waiting hook and ladder truck. Billy got to sit on the back of the truck and help steer it back to the fire station. He was in heaven!
There were three fire calls in Phoenix that day and Billy got to go out on all three calls. He rode in different fire engines, the paramedic’s van, and even the fire chief’s car. He was also videotaped for the local news program.
Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, so deeply touched Billy; he lived longer than the doctors thought possible.
Then the night everyone hoped wouldn’t happen, came. All of his vital signs dropped dramatically and the head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept – that no one should die alone, began to call his family to the hospital. While doing so, she remembered the day Billy had spent as a fireman, so she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman, in uniform, to the hospital to be with Billy as he made his transition.
The Chief replied, “We can do better than that. We’ll be there in five minutes. Will you please do me a favour? When you hear the sirens screaming and see the lights flashing, will you announce over the PA system, that there is NO fire? It’s the department coming to see one of its finest members, one more time. And will you open the window to his room please?”
About five minutes later, a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital and extended its ladder up to Billy’s third-floor open window. Sixteen firefighters climbed up the ladder into Billy’s room and, with his mother’s permission, they hugged him, and held him, and told him how much they LOVED him.
With his dying breath, Billy looked up at the Fire Chief and said, “Chief, am I really a fireman now?” He replied, “Billy, you are, and the Head Chief, Jesus, is holding your hand.” With those words, Billy smiled and said, “I know, He’s been holding my hand all day, and the angels have been singing.”
Billy then closed his eyes, for the last time.
Another Saint welcomed into Heaven.
St Dominic Savio, a student of St John Bosco who died at the age of fourteen, once wrote, “God wants all of us to be Saints, it is easy to become a Saint and there is a great reward in heaven for those who try to become Saints.”
Never give up trying!