“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
1979. I was in college, working in a local delicatessen part time. One summer day an older lady came in and before we knew it she was on the floor. No one there knew, but I was the Assistant Coordinator for CPR for the Red Cross in this major metropolis. Actually there was no coordinator, but being a student, they could not give me that title. I taught CPR and at that point my signature was on over 1000 cards.
I jumped over the pastrami and coleslaw and started CPR. While the paramedics were on their way, I had to remove the ladies dentures, re-adjust the wire in her bra cutting us both, and do what I needed to. The trauma center paramedics arrived, said “you’re doing a damn good job, keep going” while they hooked up IV’s, etc. It was about 25 minutes of straight CPR until she was taken away.
I went back to my dorm. I threw up for about 30 minutes. That night I got a call; she died. Nothing I could have done would have saved her.
That was my first brush with death.
1983. I am in a not so great neighborhood of a major city. I am a college professor, the campus police knew I had a license to carry a gun (and no, I never did to class), I had started a rescue squad for the campus so the police knew me very well.
The middle of a Saturday afternoon I am in the alley behind my apartment and I hear a commotion. I go out and I see a campus police car and real trouble going on. The officer sees me and shouts “I need your help.” Several guys had jumped the two police officers. With my gun, I ran over. I ended up standing over a gentleman, he was on the ground, my gun about two feet from the back of his head. I politely explained to him if the moved, I would stop him.
Then one of the cops called an “O.T.” … no, not an occupational therapist, “officer in trouble.” When that call goes out, all police from any organization respond. Even those that are “contentious.” Where we were was actually covered by seven police forces at the time, two colleges, city, state, park, etc. Really, seven. So there I am, in my shorts and a t-shirt, gun in hand, and the entire city lights up in sirens. Literally from all directions.
I am not so quietly requesting that the cops broadcast who I am. I can’t move because the gentleman on the ground was not a nice guy, yet no one knows who that skinny white guy with the gun is. And they are coming. Fast.
Luckily some big freaking state trooper got there first, and he decided to figure out who I was before blowing me away. But yes, he drew his weapon. I was on both sides of a gun at once.
That was my second brush with death. Causing it or receiving it. Does it even matter?
Yes, that tree falling in the forest makes a noise, even if no one hears it. Of course it does. It’s a freaking falling tree.
Morals, ethics? Meaningless. Ideas that someone pulls out of their butt. Am I moral or ethical? I try to be, but again, those are my definitions.
A month or so ago. I didn’t consciously hear anything, I just knew something was wrong. No idea how I knew. Like a seizure dog I guess. I got up and went into Pearlsky’s room.
I had seen this once before. Not a “normal” breakthrough seizure. Different. I had spoken to her last neurologist about this. I did research on her amino acid deficiency, but seeing that she was the first diagnosed, there is not much out there. I have done a lot of learning about the particular amino acid, how it is involved in neurological issues, about where in her brain seizures start (from what we know), etc. No, this was not her normal seizure.
Of course the tree makes noise. It has to. There’s that law of nature thing, no?
Her eyes were vacant, and not bouncing around like other seizures. They were slightly quivering. Her nail beds and lips were not pink, to say the least, and all her color was fading. That’s what happens when you don’t breathe. Nor move.
Do morals and ethics matter if no one is around to observe them? If the Holy One, Blessed be He, is all knowing, or all doing, then who am I to ask Him or Her to stop what He is doing? Or if Ha-Satan offers another test? I have no right to ask. Prayers obviously don’t work. And who do I think I am to ask for His help?
And there I stood. No one beside me, no one with me, alone. With Pearlsky. And maybe Him or the Divine Council. I could hear the triphony of Cerberus’ breath. I watched as Pearlsky’s face took on a blue tinge. Her life, my life, all passing before me. No one to speak to, no one to take my call, no witness, no partner, no judge, no jury, just me. And her. Motionless. Blue.
Maybe the tree does not make a sound for I cannot prove it does. Maybe morals and ethics do not exist for actually, who can say? And does it even matter? Laws matter, but morals? Ethics?
And there I stood. The eternity was in actuality seconds. But what is a lifetime if not a string of seconds. And seconds count. And my life was changing. What a selfish statement, for mine may have been changing, but what of hers? Would mine start at the end of hers?
Standing there alone. With everything I am, everything that made me who I am. I have never been as alone as that moment.
That was weeks ago. I have been too ashamed, or too embarrassed, to blog. Can one be ashamed or embarrassed if there is no one to witness the actions or lack thereof? What does one share?
My world changed in those moments. Everything changed.
I would have blown out the brains of that guy years ago in that alley. I knew when I got the coveted “license to carry a concealed weapon” that I would only carry it if I knew I would use it, when and if necessary. It would have been down to me or him, and he would have lost. (And don’t go all gun control on me, I carried it for the right reasons, and am very pro proper gun control). I know I have it in me, under the moral or ethical circumstances (!!) to take a life. I know, I have proven it, that I have it in me to save a life, or several, and helped bring a half dozen into the world. Those are active actions. Taking a life. Saving a life. Bringing in a life. All active. But what of the passive? When does one stand by? Is “innocently standing by” an oxymoron?
I was losing Pearlsky. We were alone. In every sense of the word. Not even a single god was in the room. No one to hear my voice if I screamed. And I stared at her.
I threw up several times that night.
I brought her to school a few hours late the next day.
And in many many ways, I will never be the same.
In my mind, it is precisely when we ARE totally alone in a “situation” that it all matters: what we’re made of, our “moral fibre”. It is when we are offered these moments that we learn who we really are. It’s not the hesitation that matters…it’s the ultimate decision.
I have no words but in truth, I doubt you were looking for or needing them, anyway.
So tonight I am sending you silent prayers of peace instead. Only thing I can do. And even those, not certain they are of value either, but you are getting them all the same.
Our alone thoughts are sometimes the most traumatic..wishing you peace. Much love <3 xx
P.S I miss you
Always thinking about you and the beautiful one x
I think many of us have found ourselves in your situation at least once, some of us even repeatedly. The fact that you write about it at all is a testament, a very positive testament, to who you are and to your great love for your daughter. I speak for myself but I know my “frailty”, my “weakness” and my “aloneness” are as very real as my son’s disabilities. I wish I could leave the shame, the embarassment and the waves of nausea and vomiting behind after one of those “standing by” moments. But alas there is no cure for that as there is no cure (and barely a diagnosis) for my son. Sending peace and prayers to you, your daughter and all the other parents and children in the trenches
I’m very aware lately of being a single parent, always
alone with my daughter. Her health. My health. Yes, in
some ways we must of course walk our paths alone. But as much as I need solitude, and my daughter has all sorts of needs for sensory comfort/protection, I am not sanguine as I once was about our outlier lives. I crave communal energies and mutuality and supports, and like-minded witnessing of those very quiet moments of a sacred shift. Is it only English where the c and the a might twirl each other around for scared or sacred…
I’m afraid for you because of this post. Not because you wrote it or the experience you had, but because others could cause trouble for you. I wouldn’t want that to happen.