Life, Death and Healing Hearts

by | Difficult Calls, Everyday, Fire Family Life

life death healing hearts

{life and death reflections}

I just had a more graphic conversation than normal about a run my husband took yesterday. A girl’s hand was amputated in a car wreck and I couldn’t resist asking if they recovered the limb. It’s like some weird human drive that I just had to know. I had to know if it was repairable. If she would be ok. And also what my firefighter had to see and do to help her. I am sorry if this grosses some of you but I challenge you to reflect again about how traumatic some of the scenes and images are that our firefighters see. And yes they did recover the limb and yes there is a process for that and yes I wondered what would happen if they didn’t? Would someone just find a hand lying in the street or decaying in that car in the junk yard? And what does it feel like to pick up an amputated hand?

Tonight we go to a graduation party with a girl about the same age. Knowing how brains work, there is no way to process that without having a flashback to the visuals from the scene.

Such a life or death experience every single time. The girl in the accident could have died. But she didn’t. She “just” lost her hand, didn’t even know it at the scene as she was talking to them. She was worried about her car being the primary transport for her family and others and if it was ok. And then kept saying her hand was throbbing.

Now switch scenes a few hours later to a super pleasant grad party for a beautiful girl who’s dad is a lawyer, who go on mission trips with us to third world countries, babysat for our kids often and is off to Miami University with the whole world ahead of her.   We walk in together with our smiles on but there’s always a difference in our hearts when we walk into a happy event like this right after having one of those “bad call downloads”.     In a redeeming way, it draws us closer in our marriage.  He and I know what happened.  We share together.  And then we pick ourselves up and move on with “normal”.  No one else around us even has to know.   (Until that pushy Uncle at the party asks with what feels like a disrespectful tone if he’s been on any “good runs” lately.  I’ll save that for another post.)

Life is harsh. We make choices daily, or are put in uncontrollable situations, that drastically affect the course of our life. And you, well I at least, can’t help but sit and ponder why.

Why did one girl struggling to make ends meet lose her hand? And why has our friend who is graduating been so protected and blessed? And will that protection continue when she’s off on her own? Will she make good choices?   Somehow the two scenes blur and a bit of anxiety seeps in for the new graduate stepping out into that same non-discriminating world ready for another T-Bone amputee.

Our firefighters see these outcomes every single day. And we (hopefully) as wives process it with them in a healthy manner.  Because it can be affecting you as well.   (Read here about secondary PTSD in military spouses)

It’s no wonder we sometimes have short patience with the PTO moms at school fretting about the right game for the end of the school year party. Because it doesn’t matter when your brain spends so much time seeing and processing life and death.  Thinking about the poor girl who lost her hand.  Wondering if her family is by her bedside.  That takes a lot of brain space and suddenly some conversations seem completely superficial.

Deep thinking I know. But processing life and death together also develops a bond. When people say brotherhood and sisterhood, I think this is part of it which is tough to describe in words. To just know what it’s like to ride in the back of that ambulance with the girl who doesn’t yet know her hand is gone. Just gone. Forget about the car, can you even do your job without a hand?

To receive that text from your husband that 99% of the rest of the world would never receive. A short factual text with piles of emotion and thought process behind it.

We navigate these well now 13 years in. Praise God. But I never want to think its “normal” and always want to share here for those of you new to this or who don’t see it as often in your district.

*deep breath* don’t take this with a heavy heart. Take it with the ownership and authority that this is the path you were given to walk and it is a great honor and blessing because not everyone is capable.  But it is possible.

Not every couple needs to process it the way we did.  We’ve learned to know where our limits are and read each other’s signals for when is and is not a good time to discuss these things.

After I wrote this and shared it in our private wives community, I found it to be a perfect coincidence that my friend Anne Gagliano wrote about trauma and your marriage this week over on her blog.    I recommend you check it out for a good reminder of signs to watch for in your spouse and steps you can take to not let your marriage be a casualty of the traumas of the fire service.

May your hearts stay soft and at the same time strong.


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On a mission to be and inspire us all to be better humans, to strengthen fire families & marriages, to nurture and encourage fire wives, do "good business" in all areas of my life and of course, love on my 4 kids.

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  1. Tracy Turner

    Great post Lori! Even though it applies to something totally different going on in my life right now your words
    “*deep breath* don’t take this with a heavy heart. Take it with the ownership and authority that this is the path you were given to walk and it is a great honor and blessing because not everyone is capable. But it is possible. is something that I truly needed to hear this week and be reminded that there is a plan and a reason as to why these things are happening.

    Please pass my love, hugs, and prayers along to Dan as he deals with this run. I’ve been on similar runs that still haunt me even though I haven’t been on a run in 6 years. Unfortunately, I know the answer to what happens if the limb was not recovered as I’m sure any one that has worked a run of this type does. Hug Dan a little tighter and pass on my prayers to him and his crew mates that were on this run.

  2. Ron

    As a firefighter of 37 years paid service and only 25 shifts left to retirement. I have been following this page for some months now. I so admire the thought and love that goes into this page. It is a blessing to me and my wife. Thank you.


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