Reaching Out

I know death is a daily occurrence, and for those in the funeral business, dealing with it, or helping others deal with it is a daily issue. Most of us, however, don’t see it, hear of it, or experience it on a personal level very often. And when we do, it’s usually not very graphic.

My heart goes out tonight to a young man somewhere in Ascension parish. I don’t know his name, but I know he’s struggling and needs prayers – as do a whole bunch of other people.

Debbie and I went to the outlet mall tonight (we’re the exciting type who goes shopping for our anniversary date). As I sat on a bench outside while she shopped, a young man (18 or 20) sat down next to me, talking on his cell phone. He was polite enough to ask if his cigarette would bother me. As he talked, I heard him telling the person on the other end about something he’d seen earlier. He told this person “I don’t know how talking to someone about what I saw is going to help. I mean that kind of thing never leaves you.”

He talked a little longer, told the other person he loved them, and hung up (btw – is “hanging up” the right term for ending a cell phone call?). As he stood up to leave, I had to stop him. I told him it wasn’t really any of my business, but I had seen a couple of cars on fire with people in them, and that he was right – that sort of thing never leaves you. But, when you talk to other people, it does help you understand that you are not alone.

He then started telling the story. As he stood outside at the community college campus with some friends, they heard something snap and looked around to see a student falling from a utility pole, and a metal piece from the top of the pole fall on his head (the student was in a lineman training program). As a registered first responder he ran over to help.   A nurse on the scene was performing CPR, but they couldn’t save him.  He didn’t know the guy, but it was someone he’d spoken to at school several times.  That was 9:00 this morning, so he said that was all he could see where ever he went all day.

I told him that he was right – he’d never forget it, it would never go away.  But I was sure they’d have people at the school to talk to and he really should go see them.  Or at least talk to the other students – anyone who could reassure him that he’s not alone.  I told him a few other things I can’t remember, trying to encourage and lift him up.  By this time, Debbie was standing there, wondering what in the world we were talking about, but knowing it was serious.  As he stood up to leave, and shook my hand, she gave him a hug.

I’m praying for this kid tonight, and all the others who were there.  I hope you’ll take a minute to do the same.

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About Joe

Writing on the things I'm passionate about: my family, my faith, and my work. View all posts by Joe

2 responses to “Reaching Out

  • James F (Bug) McClellan

    I think I told you about the first time I had a patient die on me. It “messed me up.” Fortunately, the next morning I noticed a friend was roofing a house down the street and I climbed up to talk to him. He was a former EMT and immediately picked up that something was bothering me.
    We talked for about an hour, and I really did feel better afterwords.
    We now call this “Critical Incident Stress Debriefing” and, in the years since, I used this technique to help our emergency team deal with traumatic incidents.
    So your counseling with him and suggestion that he seek help was the right thing and that along with your prayers were exactly what he needed.

  • gregengland

    As a funeral director who deals with death daily, I can attest to the fact that talking about it helps. And being in a community (grief group) of others who are walking that path and talking about their feelings is about all that does help. (Even prayer is talking with God about it.)

    Years ago I was a police chaplain in Florida when our department had it’s first officer involved shooting in 100 years! I was asked to be on the team that developed the PCISD (post critical incident stress debriefing) policy for the department. The officer who had to shoot and kill the would be murderer (he had a de-boning knife at the throat of a hostage in a grocery store and was drawing blood when the officer shot) said the discussions with a trained counselor were a life-saver for him.

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