We moved out of our home and in with his family, where I spent a lot of time sitting in our godson’s favorite spot on the loveseat. We just could not stand being in our house. Every time we were in there, it left us practically shaking. During that time, we prepared for his memorial while surrounded by an army of friends and family.
Then it arrived, complete with security to keep the news media away since they staked out the house two days earlier. It seemed we were living under a microscope for a while. I saw a bit of the power of forgiveness from a few, though honestly, I would not have blamed anyone for swinging at me. My mind filled with thoughts of people coming for me in misguided vengeance, which left me more than a little paranoid.
When I was back at the house, I retreated into the solace of habit, mainly coffee and books. Anything to take my mind off it all. I am still not sure what was happening in my head, even at the time of this writing. However, the idea I have is the shock, and post-traumatic stress actually suppressed my personality, leaving the interesting side effect of looking at the world without much of an ego. Just observing, calculating, processing, and taking in information.
Looking without a filter led to some interesting insights, such as when you hit bottom and learn who indeed is there for you, take the lesson in that living in a town of twenty-eight thousand plus, you really don’t matter to most people. Not really.
To them, it is a sad story that they probably do not have a frame of reference for what they see on the news that gets a “Sorry for your loss” for the grieving. However, for those that are there for you in a time they have nothing to gain, you find the people you can call family. Remember that, make time for and cherish them.
I swung the gamut of emotions, from numbness to a violent rage that left a big gas main vibrating from the palm strike. One thing about hurting people: if they are like me, they have a hard time with too much stimulus or too many questions, so it is a good idea not to pile onto them with questions. It is like alcohol on an open wound.
People also seek comfort in things that comfort them, like the coffee I mentioned earlier, and in unexpected pleasures. I always considered myself a loner, yet found myself needing people. They were the Band-Aids that held us together until we were well enough to function somewhat again. I am not sure of the other parts of the country, but one way it is done in the South is they bring food.
A. Lot. Of. Food.
It really helps with worrying about what is for dinner, if you ever feel like eating or cooking. Surrounded by people sitting and talking, giving an ear or a shoulder goes a long way. My mother-in-law mothered us all while an army went over our house once, and then my sister and father-in-law made sure everything was cleaned up so there would be no surprises. That had been a task I worried about while at the Sheriff’s Office.
Then there were my Facebook friends who reached out. The day of the accident, I had deactivated our accounts out of caution, or most likely paranoia. I had gotten texts, and one even remembered my website had a contact form to reach out to me. Some respected my privacy until I returned, and the minute I logged back on, I got an instant message.
At home, my sister was connected to my hip while my dad and uncle hovered nearby. I watched the bond between my best friend and sister strengthen as they talked, checking up on me. Usually, one knew what was up before I could say anything because of their grapevine. He cut his family’s vacation a little short to make a trip to see us, no small comfort since he is one of the few I drop my guard around. For an introvert that does not handle crowds well, it helps to have the right group to hold you together while you process your tragedies.
With that time I spent looking in, I came to quite a few realizations, some brutal and uncomfortable. An individual’s life is usually just illusions backed up by the theories of who they are and what they can do in the way they believe the world works. I dearly hope your assumptions are not tested as mine were. When reality meets illusion, the latter shatters, exposing the truth that wisely we learn from.
For one, I had emulated badass self-reliant heroes throughout most of my life. Partially as a defense mechanism, along with something to aspire to, I prepared and learned about different subjects so I could be a “warrior.” The theory is if something went wrong, I could handle it. The reality was immediately after, I went on automatic, my methods becoming a reality. As long as I had something I could do, I would not crack. It was when it was over I did just that. I broke. On the advice of others, I got us counseling, contacted a lawyer, and put in for time off work for my wife.
When I stopped, the demons that were created by the events came out to play, and still do at times, though their strength has diminished. We look at cops, paramedics, soldiers, and firefighters without considering the horrors they have seen, and maybe you want to be as hardcore as they are.
Not a bad thing to aspire to, yet I will warn you to pray that you are never tested in life’s fires. It comes with a price, usually evident in their eyes in the form of a slightly haunted look with a bit of determination in the stare. They have gone into things others run screaming from or just freeze, unable to move.
It also gives—no, forces—a change of perspective by finding what truly matters in life. Societal expectations, the image we try to project and protect, all of it inconsequential in the end. To me, what truly matters is the good you leave behind, the memories and legacy that remains with your family and friends. These are finite commodities; nothing is eternal for death comes to us all, sadly, at any age.
Hold a dying person in your arms as you try to save them and tell me, what is essential? The latest TV show, being wasted, your opinions? None of that is vital in the long view. Life’s inanities, bullshit power struggles, and posturing are just facades with little meaning.
I find myself in a position I do not want to be in, yet after learning I can do it, I feel I should use it. As a form of therapy, with the upside of helping others, a win-win. Illusions were shattered, defenses were torn down, I had learned some lessons. I knew what I could do in crunch-time, but the reality was I had to ask, what kind of person was I?