Our Lives are like books. We each have our own story. Many different people play a part in our story. People come into your life and can leave faster than they entered your story. Our stories overlap. We are intertwined in the tellings of each others stories. Some people have smaller parts yet their impact will be felt a lifetime. This isn’t my story it’s a chapter from one that intersected with mine on a hot Wednesday afternoon in late June. This is Jeff’s story. I am but a minor character in his book. He is a major one in mine.
It was like any other day. I picked up my oldest son in town after a long morning. I was so worn out and could barely move from the back pain. Carter informed me he needed something from the store. I didn’t want to go further into town. I just wanted to head home since I’m 20 miles away. I told him we would stop at our local Dollar General. It’s the only store in my area besides convenience stores. I rolled down Highway 64 and made a left hand turn into the parking lot. I noticed the parking lot being paved and it was roped off so parking was on the entrance side of the lot now. When I pulled in the parking lot I knew something was wrong. I whipped the car in park and we got out. My eyes focused on a man in a truck. I yelled to someone with him if he was alright. I knew he wasn’t. I heard heat stroke and commotion. I instructed my son to run into the store and call 911. I told him not to come back outside. I ran in flip-flops and scrubs. I leaped over the tape blocking off the paving. Did you catch the part earlier where I could barely move? I became a machine. I was on a mission and I would not be stopped.
I am a force to be reckoned with in an emergency. I think quickly and react even faster. I am focused and determined. I know exactly what to do. I’m not forgetful anymore. I am strong. I feel no pain. I jump in without a second thought. This is not my first emergency. This was my worst. I asked some questions and barked orders. Our eyes met. They were so green and kind. He looked to be the same age as my father. I knew he had worked hard his entire life. I could see it. I felt his kindness all around me. I assessed the situation and reacted. The situation had changed quickly. CPR was needed. Cooling his body temperature with water allowed us to remove him from the truck to do CPR. The parking lot burned my feet and legs. I never felt it. I made sure he stayed wet so he didn’t burn. His best friend and co-worker Wendell was at his side. It was then I learned that both men were in law enforcement in the next county. Wendell and I did CPR for what seemed like an eternity. We had some success but were unable to maintain his airway so it was vicious cycle. We talked to him. We were there to comfort him. I couldn’t maintain his airway. I ran my fingers through his hair and told him “It’s ok Jeff I’m here and I won’t leave you. I kissed him on the cheek. I felt him leave us. I went back to work. I called his name. I yelled, I begged, and I pleaded for him to stay. I had barked orders at people and didn’t conduct myself in the kind way that I normally do. I was a machine and I had a job to do. The first responders and EMS arrived. I didn’t voluntarily move. I was dragged away.
I stood up and walked away. I cried. I felt overwhelmed with emotion. I was shaken. My son was watching. I didn’t want him to see me. They continued to work on Jeff but I already knew he was gone. I failed him. I let his,family,friends, and community down. It was a punch to the gut. I knew at that moment I’d never be the same. The greatest man I never knew had left this world and I was in shock. Why? My kindness was drawn to his kindness. I’ve learned since that Jeff was selfless and kind. He cared about people and he made a difference in this world. He was someone I would have looked up to. I admire him. Through all of this Jeff gave me purpose. Kindness is the only way. Help others and love one another.
I enjoyed meeting his family and friends. The service was beautiful. I was asked by his daughters to join them and place a rose on his casket along with their mother. I was touched. It was moving and I became emotional. The world lost a great man when Jeff went home. I will never forget the lesson he taught me. He gave me perspective. It was an honor and a privilege to be with you in the end. I hope I gave you safe passage. I’m only sorry this was your last chapter. I will carry you throughout the rest of my days in my heart.