“I’ll never go home again.”
The words hung in the air after he spoke.
“So true,” I replied, “at least not to this home.”
The finality of it all came in a brief flash, after a lifetime seeking the Zen like quality of being while not being, of being one with your surroundings and having the ability to release yourself from the draw of your belongings, it was only achieved by being thrust upon him.
Our belongings do not define us, but our belongings are a part of us, we collect them because they mean something to us. They remind us of someone, or someplace, or some time, and as cliché as it sounds, they are only things, and they can be lost and lost they were - consumed in the fire that left his home a smoldering pile of rubble.
No loss of life, only property, and still, it, for lack of a better word, sucks.
Recounting the days that followed I could hear in his voice the sense of loss as he described the monumental task of searching through the rubble for items that you knew just had to survive; surely not everything could have been lost, only with much reluctance to give up after hours of fruitless searching. In the end it is just easier to rip the band-aid off in a single tug, call the demo company and have it all trucked away, because it still mattered it hurt too much to sift through the pile of rubble that suddenly represented your life’s accomplishments. Death by a thousand paper-cuts, as each destroyed memory was found in the pile and each hopeful wish was dashed by the incredibly efficient effect of fire on the fabric of one’s life.
And still we learn.
This was the first time any of us have been on the other side. We are a group of sheepdogs, always doing for others, whether that is in some Emergency Room treating the next patient, or responding on the call for help. Hearing him talk of the scene as the local fire department responded and did their job, I could picture it exactly, but it was hearing him talk of the firefighters and their radio transmissions that really made me think. They were doing their job, handling inquiries from the media and still fighting the fire, but he was on the outside now, and despite being rational enough to understand that it wasn’t personal to them, it was very personal to him. Our gallows humor in that line of work, I think could be our undoing at times.
He says that he is going to be more vigilant to that family member standing at the end of the stretcher the next time he is working on a patient, because now he knows, that while it may be exciting for us, to be battling against death, it is far from an exciting time for that person, who is now very emotionally involved, and hyper sensitive to every little word. I hope I can do the same, for him and others.
Yet, the road goes ever on.
I am extremely lucky that I have a core group of friends that while we are apart geographically, we are never that far apart from each other. I am sure you know the kind of friend I’m talking about, you may go weeks, months or even years between conversations, but as soon as you see or hear from them you can pick right back up where you left off. And so it was yesterday, after 2 plus hours on the phone talking with him.
But that geographical distance is destined to get even further apart. It is as those with faith are wont to proclaim, when a door closes a window opens, and this window beckons to a move across country. When you are literally wearing everything you own, packing for that trip is the easiest one you’ll ever take.
Plans have been made for a final farewell before he sets off on that grand adventure, and then he will be gone, and hopefully he will find a place that he can once again call home.
Good luck my friend, you will always be welcome in my home, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to be by my side when the lead starts to fly.