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"Every one I know goes away in the end..."

I was standing in the dusty rubble of the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. I was one of two supervisors from my ambulance company working with an FDNY EMS captain to set up a staging area and deploy our personnel. My cell phone rang. It surprised me because my service was spotty in the wake of all of the cell phone towers on top of the World Trade Center crashing down with their collapse. It was my best friend. He knew I worked EMS part-time and was supposed to be at my full time job.

He said, "I just wanted to make sure you were there." I asked why and he said, "I was thinking about all of the people who went to work today to a job that they hated, and died at a job that they hated. I knew that if something were to happen to you while you were there, at least you were doing what you wanted to do."

That statement, that day, changed my life. I decided that I needed to find a way to work EMS full time, because I never wanted to be in a position where I couldn't just respond when needed. Soon I was doing EMS full time. Not long after I finally decided to go to my first TES meeting and I immediately left the fringes of the lifestyle and dove in. I met many people who became friends. One of them, Sir Strange, passed away last night.

I sometimes police up my friends' list, both here and on FB. I see so many folks who are no longer with us. I look at their profiles, their pictures. I remember their voices, their laughter, their mannerisms. I also remember when they were in pain, be it physical or emotional. They stay with me, some more than others because some were closer than others... but they are all there and I will never erase them.

But, as a person with cancer, I am exceedingly aware that my time will come too. I know I am closer to that than to the bright broad promising future I had years ago, Yes, and sometimes I wonder, after all the presentations and the demonstrations and the conventions and the relationships and friendships how much of an indentation I might leave when I go. I wonder if I would have done enough. I think a lot of my mistakes, missteps, people I've hurt along the way. I was listening to Johnny Cash's mournful cover of "Hurt" and I felt it. My dad having passed away last September, my youngest sister five years ago and my mom suffering from dementia, the line that says, "Everyone I know goes away in the end..." is so poignant as to be painful.

As time progresses, more and more of those profiles will grow silent... including my own. So, we have to make the most of the time that we do have. How many people in those Towers knew when they left their homes that it would be for the last time? If they would have known, would they have decided not to have that petty argument? Would they have spent more time at breakfast? Would they have said "I love you" when they left?

None of us knows. Live life. Let the people you love know it, every day. Never leave them without telling them. Try not to let petty things become so convoluted that you forget to let them know you care.

Give them good memories to sustain them... and take as many as you can from them. Life is not guaranteed.

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