Thursday, September 01, 2011


Earlier this week we received word that a family member of an in-law had died as the result of injuries sustained while serving as a volunteer EMT during Irene rescue efforts. We didn't know the victim himself but quickly heard of his fine character and his dedication to his family and community. Countless memorials have already been written and shared via internet and social media. It seems obvious that this man was adored by family and friends, that he was a hero, "not for how he lost his life but how he lived it" as one write-up described.

He and his EMT partner were called to rescue people who were thought to be trapped in a vehicle in the water on a flooded roadway. He was trained in swift water rescue, had followed safety procedures such as tethering to his partner and wearing a helmet and a flotation vest. And yet he lost his life.

My thoughts this week have been about Mike's wife and small daughter. I have grieved over his death, a 39 year old man I never met, but also and especially for the ones who adored him, for whom the puzzle of their life has lost a critical piece, who are now faced with conducting their lives absent of their husband, their dad, their sibling, cousin, nephew, friend, or co-worker. They're tasked with recognizing the gaping hole that is now where he once was and then learning how to cope with that. How to cope without Mike. How to eventually once again be a joyful, blessed person and lead an delightful life not by ignoring that hole but by learning how to live with it.

I'm fairly sure (not to mention extremely embarrassed) that I would have a hard time being mature in this position. Were I the wife of a man who lost his life while rescuing someone, I'm afraid I would be resentful that he was no longer here to take care of his children. Of me. That I could no longer take care of him. That the hole in our lives would be so great, so deep, such an enormous cavern, that I never could surmount the sadness of living a life without him, this man who risked and ultimately gave his life to rescue someone else. I fear I would be resentful - feel that my boys and I needed rescuing and now he wasn't there to do it.

In several of the internet memorials and newspaper articles I read the statement that "Michael died doing what he loved." While I understand statements like that are helpful coping mechanisms, I'm not inclined to believe that would give me any peace.

That there was ultimately no one even in the car to rescue? Don't even want to think where I'd go with that. It's the final affront. Overload.

I pray God gives Michael's wife more tenacity and resolve. I'm praying hard she has peace and tranquility over a tragedy that seems senseless. Hoping she won't see senselessness in it but feel God's good grace instead.


Bee said...

If we could just get a hint, sometimes, that it's not senseless. I mean, my head know that all things work together for good. But my heart just doesn't always believe it.

Allie and Pattie said...

Oh God. My brother is a paramedic and worked almost 60 hours straight at the coast this week. I fear and dread the call I may someday get. My heart is shattered for them

Steve Frenkel said...

Thanks for the kind words about Michael, Caren. They are much appreciated.