Death is something that I have a lot of experience with. As an EMT and nurse I've watched people pass away right in front of me. Sometimes it was expected and sometimes it was the last thing in the world that was suppose to happen. All those times, however, it was different. It was my job. I was suppose to either care for them or comfort them as they left this world. This weekend I was touched by a different kind of death... A familiar and tragic kind.
In my nearly three decade stint on this Earth I have been blessed with very few deaths that have hit close to home. In fact, every single one of those deaths were either expected, due to age/illness, or not on the same day I last spoke with that person. For me, until this weekend, death wasn't close and cruel.
Then I received a call from work. A nurse didn't show up for her shift. She was a young nurse, near my age, who never ever just blatantly didn't come in to work. If she was ever sick she always gave plenty of notice. No one had gotten a hold of her for a full day. The other employees were asking me what to do since no one was answering her phone.I wasn't really sure how to react.
Then, out of curiosity and seeing if there were any leads to her whereabouts, I checked her facebook page. That was where I discovered something utterly unexpected.
I literally gasped in horror aloud when I read what I saw.
"Rest in Peace" "We will miss you" "I can't believe you are gone"
Those messages were posted on her page by at least a half dozen people over the last couple of hours. I simply couldn't digest what I was reading and what it meant. She couldn't be dead, could she? I just saw here and talked with her the morning before! What on Earth could have happened?
I pulled my emotions together and went into work. Several of my coworkers wondered why I was there on the weekend so I tried to just concentrate on my task at hand and not directly answer their questions. The last thing I wanted was to start a massive rumor before I had investigated or confirmed anything.
So, for the next two hours I worked my way through various phone calls to 911 and state troopers. Simultaneously I stumbled on a news article about a fiery crash where two people in their 20's were killed the night before. While the two people in the crash were not identified my heart still sank. I knew it was her.
The article was horrible. My eyes welled up with tears reading it. It described the care going off the road at interstate speeds, hitting a tree without so much as attempting to touch the breaks, and then bursting into flames. The fire chief in that town described it as the worst accident he had seen in his 33 year career while speculating that the driver must have been asleep.
It was too much.
Over and over in my mind all I could do was replay an image of the crash in my head and then remember how earlier that morning her and I had been talking and joking around. She was talking about a lot of things in the future and when she left I said "see you later!" as she walked out the door at the end of her shift. Never ever in my mind would I have imagined that would be the last time I'd talk with her, that the very next day she would be gone.
While we weren't best friends and we didn't hang out together outside of work she was still someone I regarded as a friend and good nurse. Something like this shouldn't happen to her... or anyone. Despite it all... life does move on. One must keep up the pace.