Inking up the blogosphere. And no, I don't glow in the dark. But thanks for asking.

December 16, 2009

I Am Become Death: The Story of Two Davids

Today, I am quite maudlin.  Red, white, and sad all over.

Yesterday at work, a long time employee named David had a heart attack and died.  Right there, lying on the asphalt in the pouring rain.  He had been down about 5 minutes when someone ran to my office and told me to bring the AED--I have the only one on site, centrally located I suppose.  I made sure 911 had been called and ran over.  We worked on him for another 7 minutes or so, then the ambulance arrived.  15 minutes in the ambulance and 4 rounds of ACLS and meds, then one of the paramedics finally got out and let us know that in all honesty it didn't look good.  They still couldn't get a pulse and the blood was starting to pool in his back.  They transported him, and the hospital worked on him for around an hour, but to no avail.

When I close my eyes, I see flashes of images: his arms splayed out and his wristwatch had droplets of water on the face.  One of his pants legs had ruched up and I could see he was wearing two pair of white socks.  The broad expanse of his belly, his skin stark and white, expanding with the force of the chest compressions.  His leather boots had green laces, and the boots were wet.  Everything was wet.

This morning I was out fairly early, just after it got light.  I live a few blocks from the large VA complex here in town, and I pass by the Memorial Cemetary daily.  Today, something in the cemetary caught my eye--a large yellow backhoe and several pickup trucks, out on the grass amidst the white headstones.  And then I remembered today is the funeral of another David--Petty Officer David Mudge, who died in the UAE two weeks ago.  Of course, he would be laid to rest there in that cemetary.  So they were preparing his gravesite.  It is very near a large flagpole where wreaths were being set up and I saw that the flag was at half mast.

I called my Mom this morning, mostly to talk about how crappy I was feeling.  I wanted her words of comfort.  I needed her to tell me something, some maternal bon mot that would soothe me.  Instead, what she said was this: "Honey, from the moment we are born we are dying.  We can only do with the time we are alotted.".  I hung up feeling worse than before.

Around noon, I was out again, and this time I passed by a funeral home.  Out in front, I saw more than a half dozen Patriot Guard Riders waiting to escort Petty Officer Mudge and his family to the cemetary.  I quickly pulled in and went over to them.  I introduced myself, told them I was a vet and sailor, and said, "Thank you for doing this".  And promptly started crying. 

I hadn't realized until that moment just how angry I was.  I was angry at my mother for not saying something that made me feel better.  I was angry at the paramedics for being honest, angry with them for not pulling off a miracle.  I was angry with the backhoe operator for digging a hole in the ground that was to be the final resting place of PO Mudge, angry that it was still out there as a visible reminder of the harsh reality that the dirt must be replaced.  Angry that a sailor died 7000 miles from home after having only 22 years with the people who love him.

The Patriot Guard looked at me and put his hand on my shoulder.  He said simply, "I understand".  He looked around at all the others, and said to me, "You know why we do this.  We do it for the family as much as the fallen.  They deserve as much honor and respect as we can give them during this last, hardest trip.  It's sad, but there is pride in this job".  And you know what, he was so right.  To be out in front of the procession, with their engines making loud pronouncement, and those flags sad, but how proud.  How better to honor this young man and support his family.

And somewhere in the moment between putting the key in the ignition and turning it, I had an epiphany of sorts.  I finally understood what my Mom was trying to say.  She was saying that we don't know how long we have, be it minutes, hours, or decades.  We have a limited time, and what really matters is not the end, but what has come before.  And suddenly, I'm not angry anymore.

So we here in Douglas County, Oregon, remember a young man named David who volunteered to serve his country.  We remember that he had a paper route and delivered with a smile.  We also remember an older David, a man who cheerfully worked hard.  We remember how he liked to work on his boat on the weekends with friends.  We remember them so that we honor them.

We remember them, so we don't forget them.


JihadGene said...

Live life as best you can and be good as best you can. Be grateful for the life you have and make the most of it... not just for yourself but for others as well. Good begets good. This I know.

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