Some news overshadows all other events in the moment, and for those in the Worcester area that was the case today with the word of a fire and related death in the nearby Quinsigamond neighborhood, just over the hill from Pakachoag.

The tale of brave fire fighters losing their lives sadly seems to be one that has repeated itself too often in these parts, and with every such loss, the sense of grief is overwhelming.

Such tragedy falls with immeasurable and widespread pain, but none more so than for the family of the firefighter. Others of us are deeply saddened, but the wife, children and others who are a close part of Lieutenant Menard’s life are devastated–perhaps even immobilized in—in a way that others of us can only weakly fathom.

Such moments strike deeply at our sense of security as human beings and expose our vulnerabilities to sudden and unexpected loss. Still, the news reports that Lieutenant Menard exercised heroic acts which precipitated his death, remind us that it is within human capacity to offer our full selves in the service of others.

Thus a whole range of what it means to be human is revealed in this tragedy.

In a world which is divided along so many fault lines, where differences such as religion, politics, social issues, gun laws, even who belongs in what lane on a highway, seem to prevail, deep, personal tragedy such as this reminds us all that we all are born to a common set of emotions, needs, feelings, and capacities for compassion. We do not have to have known Lieutenant Menard to understand the profundity of his loss in all its dimensions, and to extend the warmth of our inner spirits to the inner spirits of his family.

So it is, then, that I speak on behalf of the whole community of Pakachoag Church in saying that our hearts beat today as one with those of Lieutenant Menard’s family and associates, as indeed we seek ever to be one in spirit and compassion with the whole human family.