Do you ever find yourself thinking about a person you hadn’t thought about in years? Maybe you’d actually even kind of forgotten about them? Then you get kicked in the stomach, the hardest punch in the gut you’ve experienced in almost a decade. And you don’t even realize why you feel the way you do. You had no idea this person impacted you this much or realize the effect this person had on your life until you are left to reflect on what they meant to you.
You get some news and then you spend an entire afternoon trying to process why someone you hadn’t thought about in nearly 20 years has affected you the way it has.
When I was in college, I was an EMT for a couple of years. I never had plans or an interest in pursuing anything more than being an EMT. I thought giving back to the community in my spare time was cool. My parents were both EMT exam proctors, so I figured since I knew I could handle blood and guts and trauma, why not help in that way?
Once I stopped running with that squad in college, I never gave being an EMT a second thought. It was one of those things that was merely a chapter in my life, I turned the page, and moved on to the next. But looking back today, I realize that chapter impacted me more than I care to admit or acknowledged. Certainly, the people did. I’m sure the experiences did, too. I saw a lot of things that I can’t say I care to think about. Some of which have made me a better, stronger person, some of which have made me numb to a lot of things.
I spent this afternoon struggling to figure out why today’s news impacted me so much. I’m guessing it’s because he was that person who always cared, always stopped to say hello, always stopped to help someone in need.
Now I realize it’s because he was so much more than just a team member. He saved my heart, he saved my life.
Rod was very paternal. He was compassionate. It was obvious he cared about the people he encountered, both on call and off. He was always trying to encourage us to learn and be better EMTs, and—I’m sure—better people. He cared about us as colleagues and friends, not just team members.
I learned how to be an EMT working with Rod. If you mucked something up or could do better, he let you know, in a constructive way.
He was also the person who cared when you didn’t show up. And that’s not to say I didn’t show up often. So when I didn’t, it was noticed. One time, in particular, I was on call and I didn’t hear my pager in the wee hours of the morning. He later called my dad to ask him to go over to my apartment to make sure I was okay. That call was two-fold. Not only had I not shown up for a call, which was beyond uncharacteristic for me, but the call was to the scene of the accident where a near lifelong childhood friend of our family was killed in a gruesome car accident (the anniversary of which is just days away). The blessing in disguise of not hearing the pager that morning I can’t even begin to express to you. I had never before or since slept through a call. The fact that Rod recognized that whole package? Some calls you aren’t meant to answer and some higher power knew it.
Sometimes in our lives, we make poor choices, decisions that haunt us for the rest of our lives. Often those decisions are ones we make when we are weak and vulnerable when we don’t recognize our own self-worth because of things that have happened to us in our past. We let the fact that someone else took advantage of us continue to guide our lack of self-worth and spiral further poor decisions until we think ending our own life is the only solution because we hold so little value in ourselves at that exact moment in time and didn’t have the strength and courage to know better.
If you're lucky, someone like Rod will be the person on call when your friend calls 911, and you’ll get the chance to realize that you’re worth so much more than that one moment in your past when you weren't strong enough to realize you were always enough.