Those of us who work, or have worked in emergency services or death care, all have our stories; those events that were etched into our memories, often in blood, never to fade until we ourselves take our last breath.
This is one of my stories and it goes back to 1976 when at the age of 16, I was only a relatively new “Junior Firefighter.” The seeds has been planted, but I had received very little training. My father, who was the police chief in town, was taking me somewhere and we heard a call on the radio for a child struck by a car, near to where we were. We quickly arrived and I was confronted by what I have come to know as “The raw data of death.” It was scarey and had a profound effect on me. While the young girl was still alive, I remember that I thought she was not going to survive. The expressions on the faces of the police officers and volunteer ambulance attendants conveyed a sense or urgency and fear. At that time, and in a community as rural as Warren was in 1976, emergency care was pretty simple; put them in the ambulance, drive as fast as you can to the hospital and hope for the best.
Her name was Liza Gumbar and she did die a few days later from her injuries. I have driven by the place where she was injured dozens of times over the years and not once did I forget the way she looked as she laid there.
Several years ago, at a cemetery in an adjacent town while looking for the grave of a recently deceased friend, I came accross Liza’s grave. Over twenty years had passed and I had moved from the area, but was now again confronted with the images. The scab was ripped off.
Since then, whenever I was close by, I would stop to remember and pray for the many folks I know who are buried there, especially Liza and I would think about how old she would be and what her life might be like had she not decided to go for a bike ride that afternoon?
Last week, on the day before Easter, I was in the car with my father (now 85) and we drove by another spot and he recalled a young boy dying there after being hit by a car. I had heard the story numerous times and it immediately made me think of Liza, so later that afternoon, I took a drive and visited the grave of the first person I had ever encountered with fatal injuries. . . forty one years ago.
To those readers who have worked in emergency services or funeral service, you probably understand. We get inserted into situations that are very dynamic, emotional and chaotic and our responsibility is to mitigate that chaos. Sometimes we are successful, but sometimes we are not. Regardless of the outcome, there are some situations we will just never forget. In my 32 years in emergency services, there are many stories to tell.
It is also another somber reminder that “The next thing you know just might be the last thing you know.” Liza got on her bike one afternoon and as she came out of her driveway, was struck by a passing car and died of her injuries. It happened just that fast.
Keep that in mind as you look at your relationships and hopefully you are able to heal and complete those relationships before there is an “unforseen event.”