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A Family’s Mutual Aid Response to Tragedy

A Family’s Mutual Aid Response to Tragedy

Episode Three of Season Two of the Grief in Progress podcast
A Family’s Mutual Aid Response to Tragedy

Firefighter Gail Lynn Van Auken died while responding to a fire call in 2000, leaving behind her husband and four children – including eight-year-old Laurel. Gail came from a large family with six siblings; her sister Carole Chisholm is one of them. In this episode of Grief in Progress,  Laurel and Carole’s story reminds us of the enduring power of family support in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

Carole and her siblings offered a unique perspective to young Laurel and her siblings—because they, too, had lost their mother at a young age. This tragic generational similarity resulted in a family who was comforted and strengthened by a strong sense of connection. Laurel said, “I think we all appreciate life a lot more and respect life a lot more. And we know how to take care of each other when bad things happen. It’s a skill we don’t want, but we have.”

Gail and her husband Rick instilled in their children the importance of serving one’s community as a firefighter. Laurel and some of her other family members have become firefighters—and have even run mutual aid calls together. The most significant legacy Gail left to her children, however, was the importance of caring for each other during life’s most challenging moments. Laurel and Carole’s inspirational story about the role of a support system offers hope to others who are navigating grief.

Listen to Laurel and Carole's story on Grief in Progress or your favorite podcast platform.

My mother was the best person to talk to when you needed to smile or laugh. She always knew the right, goofy thing to say or do! When it came to making sure others were happy, she was on it. She was not afraid to be silly! In fact, I would say she thrived on it. She was also a fierce protector when it came to her family. She would also never turn down an opportunity to watch a scary movie or to tell scary stories to her kids, nieces, and nephews.

A new episode featuring NFFF Fire Hero Families will launch on the 15th of each month, from May through October 2023.