[I paste the following from another blog, sans pictures. I’ll have to add those later. This was the intersection point of a lot of threads in my life that, well, seemingly unraveled. What has been revealed is a beautiful, natural tapestry.]
Yes, Christmas Eve was fun. The whole family together, laughing, eating, goofing off. A night of a dinner, and a couple early gifts: The camera that took the pictures. The new French press to make coffee with. And plans to gather Christmas morning to open gifts before my son and his sweetie headed off to the other side of the family.
In the midst of our Christmas day joviality, my pager went off, and the reality of my life as an emergency responder interrupted. The wind had been blowing here, and a tree top snapped off and fell on a traveling vehicle, injuring one of the children. I was out the door. My wife Jody knew right then and there that if this call was a bad one, how I would be affected, and told the kids. Unfortunately it was.
I am lying in bed the day after Christmas, computer on lap. The distractions I wanted, some wine last night, television, surfing the net, the drums, reading; nothing is making the tears stop or the pain go away. It’s not just the image of a child getting CPR. It’s going deeper than that for me. It’s the cascading effect of being out of work, no solid prospects of any yet, no health insurance, my wife and our son being rear ended on the mainland, that car being partially unusable now, and then going to a call to help what turned out to be people I know. People who lost a daughter. The father with a broken neck. Their lives are altered far more than mine.
Part of it is the helpless feeling. Yes, I can treat the mother, as I did. I can help the oldest daughter retain some semblance of sanity, as I did. But it’s the incredibly helpless feeling of knowing that a hurt child is not doing well, having a mother ask how her daughter is, wanting to be with her, and I have no words to speak other than to ask this woman to focus on herself for now.
Having pieced together the need for CPR and a falling tree, a responder knows there is a head injury that had immediate traumatic effects. The odds aren’t good. Nobody called for air lift, or put it on standby, that I heard, because the ambulance never moved. They were still trying to get a heart rate. Really not good. All this info is on my mind while I move between mom and dad, trying to assure them, to help them in any way I can.
Finally the ambulances all leave for the hospital. The family will stay together, despite the upcoming final news. I finally put my head down on the hood of the chief’s truck and begin to cry.
My day turned when the wind began to blow. Actually before that. The tree had some weakness, and when that weakness started, my day was altered. That weakness grew until Christmas, 2011, until that day, when just minutes before, my friends and their children got into their vehicle to go spend Christmas with their relatives on the mainland. They likely never saw the tree break, or heard it. Suddenly, it crashed into their lives, not out of malice, but as a necessary response of nature to the strong but not really bad wind that day. We’ve had worse. At that moment their day turned, and someone called 911.
Then my day turned. The lives of my family turned, and that of our community. The ripples will roll out for a while. As I sit here crying, typing these words, depressed, shut in, eating stale popcorn for breakfast because I can’t motivate for anything else right now, I know this won’t last. I will heal, and the community will heal. This couple and their family perhaps slower. Losing a child and sibling cannot be easy. None of us ever saw the moment that culminated in that tree breaking, and yet because of the interdependence of things, on Christmas Day, 2011, our lives were woven traumatically together.
I certainly can’t blame the tree, or the victims. There isn’t anywhere to put it, and realistically, no reason to blame. I just need to feel the pain and anger, cry the tears, and get on with helping this family recover from their more immediate experience. This is the stuff of life. As a responder, I get to see the ugly side of it. I think that’s the lesson. When my pager goes off, I get to be intimately connected with the ugly suffering of others. I get to help, and indirectly so does my family. We are all in this together: the wind, the tree, the patients, the responders, the community, all of us. Knowing our community they way I do, I think we will successfully navigate this turn in our world.