Unfortunately, this post is appropriately titled. I received some bad news today about a friend of mine that died while lobster diving. Early news says it was a pulmonary embolism, which can, well, wreck your day. This hit me pretty hard and I am feeling uneasy about this as this is my 3rd friend just this year. I have a very strange and weird relationship with death and no longer ask “why?”
Yoni- Knew this guy from high school and we used to surf together. Cool dude. Tattoo artist and had 2 kids and a wife he very much loved. I never knew he had issues, until I got the call that he threw himself off a bridge. How did I feel? Indifferent and sad. Sad that he went out that way. Not because he was dead, just because he had so much potential ahead of him.
Adam- A guy I grew up with. Surfed with. Worked with. Killed on his motorcycle when hit by a drunk driver. He was 25. Just started his own business and had a great girlfriend. I got a call from our former boss to tell me the news. How did I feel? Disbelief and anger. Angry that this woman pulled out in front of him and took him out. He was just getting going.
Shane- I’ve known Shane for about 8 years. He was a fellow firefighter for the city I worked in and he was my preceptor when I did my rotations during EMS/Fire school. I also worked with his wife on the night shift in the ER. In fact, I remember when they started dating and when they got married. I wish I could be half the man Shane was. I got the text message at work. In fact I was chatting with a friend when it rolled though. How do I feel? Really upset. A strange sadness has hit me.
Why would this death be different? Simple, the fire and emergency services community is like a gang. You cannot get out. Even if someone in that gang hates you, if you are in trouble, they would step up to help. Shane’s wife and I worked almost the same shift for 7 years. In fact we worked so well together, that we always made sure we were together, especially when we were assigned to trauma or “fast track.” We knew what needed to be done and we always had each others back. We were not BFF, but we were down. The kind of down that no words needed to be spoken. She was a constant supporter of anything I did, giving me words of encouragement. She also would break my balls if I stepped out of line and had no problem telling me what was up.
How does this relate to Shane? Simple, my friend fiercely loved him. The woman that had my back for 7 years is now in pain and I can do nothing about it. The medical examiner will not let her see his body. She is in pain and I feel for her. For once, all I can offer my friend is the same generic condolences we offered our patients… it kills me! I am getting to a point in my life where I am seriously thinking about my future in every possible way. What if my wife was taken from me, I wouldn’t want generic “I am sorry’s.” Plus, from day one in school you are told you will die. To die in service and with your brothers in the most honorable thing you can ever do. If you happen to make it to retirement, you will probably die from something you picked up during your term of service; cancer, mesothelioma, hepatitis, anything. Your death would be honored. To be taken out by a PE, that is tough one to take. It hits you with no consolation prize. No epic saga of your deeds. Robbed.
I do however, find it interesting that even though I have been away for 2 years, I still get the messages. My friends who are hurting, like me, reach out to those who will always be there as a support system. I haven’t talked to her in 2 years, but it doesn’t matter. Our professional relationship is a deeply rooted personal one. In that enviroment, the two are not seperate. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, where do we go from here. I want to let it out and move on. Though, it won’t happen now, it will happen when I am at the services and every fire fighter in the county is there. Dressed in their Class A’s as the bagpipes come down the isle. You want to see an entire room of grown men, fire fighters, cry? Just watch and listen as amazing grace is played through the pipes. That scares the shit out of me. Those tones are all too familiar. It is my mortal fear. Just to know that in the Fir Na Tine tradition, the pipes call our brother home. Below is a traditional send off. The way Shane and all other firefighters of honor get sent off. I could only be so lucky to have the pipes lead me home one day.
A wife has lost a husband. Community has lost a saint. A friend will weep for all.