I write True to make a living, yes, and it’s gratifying that enough people support the publication to make that happen. But there’s another reason, too: I want to change the world just a little bit, on both a micro and a macro scale.
It’s really cool, for instance, to see other columnists slowly getting on my anti-Zero Tolerance bandwagon, which is more of a macro effect
But the most powerful effect on me is the micro: the letters I get from readers who get something really personal from my writing. There have been many over the years that get me right here.
This week it was Al in Alberta, Canada, who wrote:
This has been a tough couple of months. My wife of almost 31 years passed away in December by what they call galloping pneumonia. Death within 12 hours of admittance. It has taken me a little while to come to grips with her passing as she was only 59 and I’m 10 years older. Anyway, while reading your regular column, I said to myself that it was time to not only upgrade my life but also your column. I enjoyed my first premium upgrade to-day and look forward to many more in the future. Thank you Randy for helping me keep a grip on my sanity.
I just finished a two-day conference on emergency medicine put on by the Children’s Hospital in Denver. Topics ranged from labor and delivery, to why it’s sometimes difficult to keep children breathing, to detecting child abuse (never, ever shake a baby!), to dealing with the death of a child (the surprisingly uplifting final session today — since I’ve had pediatric patients die during my mostly volunteer EMS career, I expected anything but “uplifting” as my reaction to that lecture).
I haven’t had to deal with what Al is going through, but I’ve lived through my share of tragedy, which is just one of the reasons I so enjoy making my living through humor.
You Don’t Get Over It
Those who haven’t suffered such a devastating loss like to say “You’ll get over it: life goes on.” Yeah, life does go on after a loss, but you don’t have to “get over it.”
We do sometimes have to work a bit to get to the point where the pain moves out of the way enough so that we can enjoy the happy memories again: the things we remember about the child, parent, spouse, or friend that makes us smile and feel good.
Sometimes, people get mighty upset at stories in True, up to and including telling me I’m going to hell — and even the occasional death threat. To those people, I say this: your life is awfully charmed if a story that’s funny to most of the world is the biggest tragedy in your life. Get over yourself and look at the real tragedy in the world — and it wouldn’t hurt to help solve or soothe some of it, rather than put so much energy into stirring up more.
True is sometimes tragic, yes, but we can learn from tragedy. If life was all sweetness and wonderful, would we care? I think we need the contrast of bad things so we appreciate the good stuff. True isn’t about laughing at others, it’s realizing that we’re all stupid sometimes, and if we can learn to laugh at ourselves more, life gets better and better.
The Day’s Final Training
That last lecture today was by the hospital’s “Director of Bereavement Services”. It’s her job to follow up with the parents of every child that dies at their hospital — 207 last year, or about four kids every week.
The 200+ medics in the room said they wouldn’t trade jobs with her for anything. Geri Nelson’s response? She wouldn’t want our jobs for anything!
She assured us her job wasn’t anywhere as depressing as we might think: she helps parents get to the point where they can bring up the good memories again, and what an uplifting thing that is!
After she was done, I went up and told her the very brief story of how the Get Out of Hell Free cards came into being, and handed her a stack. As I suspected, she loved them. She’s a cool lady: she has dedicated her life to soothing some of the tragedy in the world — she has worked at the hospital for 25 years now, and clearly loves her job.
So, Al, I won’t tell you to “get over” the sudden death of your wife, but I’ll promise you it will get better, if you work at it. You may feel like you’ll never smile again, but you will, because the good memories of your wife will make you. And if True helps you in any way to do that, then I’ll get my reward: the knowledge that I’ve done my job well. Thanks for taking the time to send your note.
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My very special thanks to Children’s Hospital in Denver for putting on fantastic educational programs for EMS workers for break-even prices. You’re truly doing something to help your community. -rc
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