It’s been two years now and, already, so much has changed.
I finally got out – just like we always talked about. I do not miss it at all and, no, I have no regrets. Sometimes the memories still get to me, flashing back in absurd clarity. Like that night we got called for a lift assist, but the vibes had us both on edge. “Trust your gut”, we always used to say – so we drove a little faster, without any delay.
“What the fucking fuck, Matt-Man?!”, was all I’d ever have to say to bring it all back – and we’d laugh. But, deep down, I know you knew how very grateful I was to have you there with me that night when we bore witness to the most dynamic cardiac call either of us had ever seen – when the “clinically dead” man was talking to us and my mind was reeling, trying to make sense of what couldn’t possibly be.
“Check the leads.” , I heard myself say.
Was our equipment malfunctioning or was this poor soul really experiencing such an abnormal neurological delay? His status kept changing so fast, it would have given even the most seasoned practitioner whiplash – mentally scrolling through a protocol book like a 1980’s flip-book comic reel!
And when the time came to intubate, and suddenly this “dead” man woke up again… and promptly bit me!
This man required so much immediate action and constant attention, that neither of us was free to initiate our own extrication. You called for help. County responded with “No units available”. It was my own husband, always listening and looking out for me, that responded from home in the darkness of that hot, summer night to enable us to move this man and transport him to definitive care.
My heart still races, as I recall it all… I’m still in disbelief and absolute wonder that this man not only survived to hospital discharge, but with full neurological function!
“Good job, Aubs – strong work!”, and you smiled – as if I could have done any of it at all without you.
The good calls – when we laughed so much, it was hard to believe we were actually at work. The pappy who ate pot brownies and was on a trip so bad, he was convinced that he was dead. The postcoital cardiac call… when we noticed the horse bridle tied to the door handle and the whip beneath the bed. Or the time we deviated from protocol, based on a hunch, only to be questioned by our Supervisors, then praised by Medical Command.
The bad calls – when no matter what we did, it would never be enough. The beautiful, but extremely pregnant, young woman who insisted upon helping us do chest compressions on her fiance – after he’d arrived home from a six-month deployment, laid down to take a nap, and never woke up again. That night we sat on the front porch and shared in the grief of a slightly drunk panic attack, having just received the news that her mother was dying of cancer. Or the times we’ve had to endure conditions that make “deplorable” feel luxurious, and perform tasks so grotesque, they could never accurately be depicted in any stress debriefing.
So many things, I wish I could forget – but never will I ever forget about you. You were a good man, a great friend, and the best work partner – honest and reliable, always ready to help. Like when I told you my daughter needed rescued from a bad situation, and you dropped everything to be right there – your gun strapped on and your truck fired up, ready to help haul her and all of her belongings safely back home. Or when my parents died, and you sat silently beside me, watching and re-watching the video of their crash, until every bit of hurt I felt had gone completely numb. And when my symptoms of P.T.S.D. became too severe to ignore anymore, you never turned away or let me feel like less of a person, or Paramedic.
Even when I initiated my exit from EMS, and our shifts together had come to an end, not a week went by without a call or a text – “Hey Aubs, let’s go for a walk.” …and so began our bi-weekly dog walks at Green Valley Park.
I’m so sorry for turning you down on the last one. “Too busy with my new job.”, I’d said… and, as always, you understood. “Next time!”, you replied – neither one of us knowing that there would never be a next time.
It’s so hard to let go of the things that we regret, the things we wish we could go back and change. But it’s these very same experiences that put us in our place, perfectly imperfect, and humbled into a better human state.
Sometimes I wonder where you are now, and if you can somehow see us all as we go about our lives, here, without you?
I hope you know that we’re doing just fine – getting older, growing wiser, never taking one single moment for granted.
Your daughter is beautiful, and growing up so fast. She’s smart, she’s successful… and, I am certain, you would be so proud.
Quint is getting older, but he’s healthy and happy – the “black tail of death” wags on! He’s “fluffier” now, but he loves to eat and “bad bellies” are a thing of the past. He’s slower now too – some health issues hit him hard in the months after your death, but he’s “good” now, and requires minimal meds. Would you believe his best friend is cat??? He still has his BOB, and he still loves to swim… but he can rival Runner any day in crushing a few hours, napping on his couch!
Sometimes I still wish we’d actually gotten to say “Goodbye”… but, I’m grateful not to have those final moments in my memory.
I know you stopped by that night, on your way out, as you departed this world. It was cold and windy, and I was trying to sleep. Visitation had been granted, and my alarm was set – we were to come to your hospital room with Quint in just a few hours. We knew the prognosis was poor. We knew this was our time to say goodbye. The wind was howling outside the house, and I had finally drifted off – the dreams dancing in my head were made of nonsense, nothing that I can even recall today… but The Rolling Stones song, “Waiting on a Friend” rang out in my mind, clear as day, as the wind blew the front door of our house open, setting off our doorbell alarm, and startling us all awake. My bedside alarm clock radio flashed and the song played out, in tune with the remnants of a dream, still lingering in my mind:
“A smile relieves a heart that grieves –
Remember what I said:
I’m not waiting on a lady,
I’m just waiting on a friend.
I’m just waiting on a friend.
Just waiting on a a friend.”
Just then the phone rang… and they told us you were gone.
Take care of you, my friend, until we meet again.