Dear Reader: I write to better understand my experiences of life; I share with the hope that my words will touch something inside you, and together we will remember that we all walk through life with love and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, faith and uncertainty.
NOTE: I will never write about upsetting details without a warning.
My spiritual beliefs had changed over the years, but overall I had a sense of being connected to others, the natural world, and The Universe. I had a sense that as long as I walked in step with my Life, something was watching out for me. I believed that Life would never give me more than I could handle.
But I was wrong.
It was my sixth day back at work after graduating from the parks law enforcement academy. Sixth day wearing my badge, duty belt, firearm. Sixth day putting on not only the uniform, but also the immense responsibilities that went along with it. Not that I had any real inkling of what that meant. Mostly I felt very proud.
A seasonal park aide and I had driven to a day use park a few miles away from the campground to do some mowing and weed eating, and to clean the restrooms. We were on our way back when traffic came to an abrupt stop. This was on a long, narrow winding stretch of Highway 101 along the Hood Canal. I turned on the law enforcement radio and heard something about a traffic accident. I couldn’t tell, but thought maybe that was why we were stopped. I realized the only responsible thing to do was get out and offer our help. As we were getting out of the truck, a solitary car came from the opposite direction and stopped when they saw the blue light bar on top of my truck. The driver told me there was an accident ahead. “There’s a fatality,” she said. I remember thinking, “but how does she know? How can you really know someone’s dead? You have to try to resuscitate. You can’t just guess someone’s dead. How can she be sure?” And I thought, “shit, really? This does not sound good.”
I asked her what responders were on scene already and she said, “no one.”
“No one?” I echoed. The words came out like a bark, shrill and sharp. In that instant, my world started to unravel. How was it possible, with the countless lives being lived out in this Universe, that all the stories had converged in this moment such that I was the first responder to arrive at a vehicle accident with a fatality? It couldn’t be. It wasn’t right. It was beyond comprehension. Six days as a law enforcement ranger. I hadn’t even used my law enforcement radio to call into dispatch yet. I hadn’t responded to a car accident yet. I had never performed CPR. Heck, I’d never seen anyone else perform CPR. I had never seen a dead person (with exception of my grandpa in his casket, who truthfully didn’t look dead at all).
This was so beyond what I was ready for, this was outrageous and horrible and completely terrifying. I did not want this responsibility.
In that moment I knew that my understanding of a benevolent force in the world, of a right-ness to the events of my life, of Life never giving me more than I could handle, were absolutely completely wrong. My perception of reality, my understanding of the rules of Life, my sense of control, shattered in an instant. I was completely alone in the world, and there was no safety net.
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