These are the words I spoke at the funeral home on behalf of the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Department. For the glory of God and in thankfulness to Him for Brenda Long, I share this with you – and for the family to keep.
In August of 2015 I had been the chaplain at the Short Gap VFC for two years when 53 year old Steve Baker died. At the time I was not a member. I did not know the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic. Basically, I opened their meetings by saying a prayer. I did not know much else. Or as I like to call those times, “The good ‘ol days”. I did not really know Steve Baker. There are really not a lot of people active in the department now who were involved with the department then. But I remember how it rocked the department. His loss was so devastating because it was so sudden. I know many still mourn that loss. Yet as it does, time marched on. A little while later I vividly remember the meeting where it was announced that Brenda Long had passed her EMT test. At the time I did not know what a big deal that was. It was not long before she was integral in getting the ambulance out. I was still oblivious to it all. Somewhere along the way, I got off track – got off the social distance train and joined and got involved. And for a couple solid years, Brenda was Batman and I was Robin. We ran nearly all the daytime and overnight calls. As her driver she taught me things that would help her and the patient – things like changing batteries on the Lifepak, how to use the Lucas, transmitting a 12 lead, and the list goes on. Then in late summer of 2019 it was a miracle when I felt led to take EMT classes myself. Brenda continued to teach me on the calls and would meet me at the station to go over airways or whatever else I was studying in my class.
When Covid hit, our class had just finished, but we were not able to take our hands on practical test which would allow us to take our written test due to Covid. Several months later in the summer of 2020 we finally got to take our test and I took my EMT National Registry test the day after Brenda had her first surgery. She was out a little while and then came back to help me get signed off to run as an EMT on my own. And most of you know how it has gone the last year and a half. She would run when she felt well enough, often times feeling worse than the person we were transporting. But the department and the patients loved having her back. I remember one home that we went to a lot and Brenda contacted me to see if she could round up some baby formula for them. Another one food. Another one kid’s clothes. On a call for Barb Swan who went to our church and passed away this past fall, I was the EMT and Brenda was the driver. I said something about Brenda when we got to the hospital and Barb said, “Is that Brenda Long?” Barb’s eyesight was not good and we were wearing masks, and I said yes it is. And Barb told Brenda “Brenda, I pray for you ever day”. When we took Barb in to the ER and got her settled in the room, I had prayer for Barb and Brenda and we were all three filled with tears. I hope Barb was on Brenda’s welcoming committee in heaven.
I also hope Gideon was on that committee. Gideon was a person we read about in the Bible. He had a lowly job threshing wheat and was doing that when an angel came and called him a “mighty man of valor.” Gideon surely thought the angel must have gotten him confused with someone else. Gideon said, “I am of the least of the tribes and I am the least of my tribe.” And God saw something in Gideon that Gideon did not see in himself. He indeed had within himself the mighty man of valor of which the angel spoke. Gideon saved Israel from the Midianites and for 40 years they had peace under his leadership until his death. Gideon had these lowly beginnings, but God used him to accomplish great things. After what some would see as squandering his youth, Gideon found his purpose and all of Israel was blessed. Do you see why I felt like God wanted me to share this insight into Gideon?
Likewise, I believe I can testify to you today that Brenda Long found her purpose and between running with Short Gap and helping out in Wiley Ford, all of the upper end of Mineral County was blessed.
Brenda would always say that God had a sense of humor putting the two of us together. I agree. But He also had a purpose. It was for her to help me and for me to help her. Renee Douthitt and I were running a call the other day and this person would just not pull over to let us go by. When that happens, our protocol is that the person in the passenger seat is obliged to gawk out the side window staring at the driver like they are an inconsiderate fool. When we went by I told Renee, “When I was driving Brenda, I would always say at that moment, “Don’t give them the finger””. I’m not kidding. So she would instead hit the air horn to express her displeasure.
I could easily go on, but I tell you that as a way of closing this evening. God was working on Brenda right up to the very end, just as He is continually working on me and you. I sat at Brenda’s kitchen table a couple of months ago with her and her sister and I had a heart to heart with Brenda. You see, the heavenly welcome committee did not welcome Brenda because she found her purpose and ran so many ambulance calls or because she was such a caring, do anything for the family mom. They would welcome her because she cast herself at the mercy of the judge. Brenda fell short of the glory of God. So do I and so do you. But the Bible says if we will confess that and believe that Jesus did indeed pay for our sins on the cross, He will surely forgive us and welcome us when our work on earth is done. The fact that her work is done is going to be tough on Short Gap and Wiley Ford EMS. It is going to be tough on her family. But her work is done. And tonight, on behalf of the SGVFC, we thank God and thank you her family and friends for sharing her with us for a season.