Who knew sermon research could be this unsettling? The other day a young Calgary firefighter sent me a few personal journal entries [WARNING: very graphic content]. They made me wonder about the anguish God feels as he enters into our pain and suffering, our death, the hell that human life can sometimes be. Here are a few excerpts;
“The other day I did CPR for the first time. It was exciting and horrible all at once. I don’t think that I’ll ever get the feeling of crackling ribs and popping intercostal tissue out of my mind…”
“I’ve seen another dead person… Not a dead person in a coffin, but a real dead person. The kind of dead person without makeup, without a peaceful grin and without the suit that they asked to be buried in… Her face… was twisted, the jaw drooping to the left – her right. Her lips, pulled taught over top of white false teeth, were grey, ashen and waxy. Two deep wrinkles cradled the corners of her mouth like taught bowstrings extending the grimace back toward the jaw bones. Below her head, a frail body – almost the body of a child.”
“[About to do CPR on a lifeless 80 year old woman] I opened up our AED, removed the pads from their plastic wrapping after fumbling with the pre-torn corner of the packaging. I removed the backing from the pads and pressed them, as I had been taught, below the clavicle on the patient’s right side and on the left side below the armpit. The machine kept saying analyze – but I couldn’t figure out where the button was. [My partner] reached over the patient and pressed the button for me. “No shock advised,” said the machine in its automated female voice.”
“This last tour… was pretty intense. I saw bits of humanity and life and death and the spaces between the two that have me a little screwed up at the moment. I did CPR on a 62 year old man who the medics pronounced dead on scene, then I moved a 650 pound woman out of her apartment. She’d been sitting in her own [excrement] on an absorbent pad for months because she was too fat to walk to the bathroom…”
“Last night I worked the second code of the tour; a 67 year-old grandfather. We arrived to find a girl of 12 years of age standing beside the lifeless body of her grandfather in the middle of the road. She said, “He was driving and then told me he thought he was having a heart-attack. He put the car in park and then lost consciousness. When I opened his door he fell out of his seat onto the ground. As I’m [doing CPR] I hear his granddaughter shrieking, “please don’t let him die, he’s my favourite person in the whole world – I love him so much!” The pain in her voice hit me hard. In my head I know I’m doing the best that I can, but I also know the odds – this guy is dead. Shock advised – “I’m clear, you’re clear, we’re clear… shocking!” His body tensed up and his arm hit me in the leg. His back arched, but no heart beat.
[LATER THAT NIGHT] At first I thought I was fine, but I woke up twice in the night crying – “He’s my favourite person in the whole world.” It just kept repeating over and over in my head and the same helpless feeling gripped me again – this guy is dead. Now, a day later I’m still shaken – I’m still crying all of a sudden for no reason. On the way home from work a [firefighter friend] called me. He had two codes last night as well. He delivered a still-born baby and did CPR on an old man in his living room while his family watched and screamed. He’s screwed up too. I wonder if he’s crying all of a sudden also – or if that’s just how my mind is coping with the stress. He told me that they couldn’t cut the baby’s umbilical cord and it was just hanging there. I’m sure he’ll see that image forever.”
“Where?” [I asked]. The old woman pointed toward the doorway of her neighbor. My partner and I entered into a bad scene. As soon as the door cracked open I heard children crying. I walked past four children ranging in ages from about 4 to maybe 13 years old who were sitting in a mass of arms and legs together on a love seat. They looked terrified. I tried not to look at them as I went by, but one of the poor girl’s eyes were open so wide that her pupils looked small – it was a look of horror framed between blonde braids. As I reached the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the bedrooms a wail erupted from above us. A moment later a man, who looked to be in his thirties, pushed past us. He didn’t cry, he didn’t yell; he wailed. It’s a sound I’ve only heard a few times and it is an uttering of such anguish and panic that it can’t be mistaken for anything else. We continued up the stairs and a medic’s head poked out of a bedroom – he looked worn out. He told us, “looks like we have a 32.” I wasn’t sure what a “32” was, but I figured that it meant they weren’t going to try to resuscitate. The medic busied himself with protocol, attaching leads to the corpse on the floor to confirm that she was indeed dead. She was a bit chubby and gray in color. A dried spattering of bloody sputum trailed from the corner of her gaping mouth. She was obviously dead. I could hear the medic downstairs delivering the news to the grief stricken family. There was more wailing from the now single father as he sought to comfort his 4 young children. He wasn’t even telling them that thing would be okay – how could he? It would have been bullshit anyway because things were fucked, they definitely weren’t okay. The oldest girl was drowning in the details of her life and clearly hadn’t grasped the enormity of what was happening. She argued with her dad and kept telling him that someone had to call the school because she was supposed to make a presentation that day.”