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Heroes and Angels

May 2013

by Michael O’Brien

Sometimes when I write these words I have a good idea of what I’m going to say. This time I don’t.

But it began with the passing of someone I only met once. A young woman who dedicated her life to giving aid and comfort to strangers. I thought about that a lot the last few days. Can you imagine that? Deciding to go to college, carry the costs, and expect nothing more than to be able to help your friends turn the worst day of a stranger’s life into a survivable situation? In our time when every college degree is evaluated in its return on investment, this person, like many caregivers and first responders, looked at it differently.

She, and a whole squad of friends spend countless hours together, as volunteers, learning, practicing, preparing so that one moment when we citizens dial 911, in that moment we fear for our lives, or the lives of our loved ones, strangers like her show up at our door, or in the window of our crushed car, or pop up next to us in a flooded creek. This young woman, mother of two, spouse, nurse, friend, is one of those people who ride up and save the day, who guide us through the chaos of disaster, giving us care, and hope just when we need it.

She, like others who know and care about that knowing being passed to the next generation, shared her insights, her tips, her knowledge of life, and how to get along in life with the few other women in her squad. She helped the younger ones survive to become older ones, and helped older ones not look askance at the younger ones.

Her squad of friends, family really, mourned her passing today. They gathered from around the country to honor her memory, and give each other the care and hope they need right now. I’m hoping a similar squad from Christiansburg or Radford stepped in to staff the station, so her squad, her friends in care, could be there, say their thank you’s and their goodbyes.

I don’t know what happened, all one might say is God called her back. Why these things happen to young people, why they get called too soon, is a mystery to us all. Honestly, why and when any of us get called is a mystery. Not that I think we should be immortal, but it seems no matter how much warning we might get, we’re never ready to let a loved one go.

Springtime is filled with memories of callings for me and many others. Nature puts forward another year’s growth, students graduate, babies are born. There’s a lot to look forward to, a lot to remember, a lot to honor, and honoring someone’s memory is part of the turning of each year. It’s not that it has to be done, it’s that it must be done.

Making those visits to gravesides is difficult for most of us. Seeing a a loved one’s name in stone, it seems to tear at us. We remember the things we wished we’d done differently, or a conversation that didn’t go well, or we remember it all, and miss it, miss that life, with them.

I’m told the hurting part never goes away, it’s just that somehow, as time turns, our lives become bigger, our hearts bigger maybe, and the loss, the sadness, well it gets more familiar to us, more a part of us, it finds its place among the memories of advice and wisdom shared alongside the feelings of love and happiness. Sometimes that makes the pain of loss a bit easier to carry.

The one who holds my heart and I will make that trip soon. To honor a man and a woman who had a following of turtles! Who shared kindness and compassion in equal amounts with wisdom and advice. Maybe that’s what we remember during our time of personal loss; we remember how much they gave. We still miss them, it still hurts, but we see the people around us a bit differently. Maybe we appreciate those who give us care a bit more, is that what wisdom is? Maybe partly….

Be good to each other, give care wherever you can, and thank those first responders when you have occasion to talk to them. I think Kristi would smile down upon you when you do.

Take good care, make good memories.