A Trail of Yellow Ribbons
"There are those --soldiers and nurses, poets and priests--for whom death is a sure companion."
Nancy Gibbs, TIME, Essay-The Light of Death, May 5, 2008
The flags remain at half mast. Yellow ribbons line Route 32 and dot neighborhood streets in this part of the country to honor Matt Maupin's return to his family. Military jets flew in formation overhead while I watched my daughter's soccer game yesterday near Lunken airport and a plane looking suspiciously Harrison Ford-ish-Air Force One flew in ready to land. The Sunday morning newspaper has as its headline, "Maupin's long journey home finally complete." Another young man is now forever caught in the face of his youth and the countenances of two more parents are etched with grief. Painful days for this community.
We have the C-Stars come to our hospital before they are deployed in their military service to Iraq, Afghanistan, or the military hospital in Germany. I can't remember the specifics of the acronym, but they are nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians who spend time in our Surgical and Neuro Trauma units in preparation for their next tour of duty overseas. I enjoy their company, their extra pairs of hands in caring for our patients with traumatic brain injury or head bleeds. We compare notes about what's happening in their hospitals, how they're doing certain procedures, play six degrees of separation and see if we have any acquaintances in common. We share stories about our kids and pets and get out the photos we all carry. They spend about a week with us between the two trauma units and working with the simulator. This last batch is due to deploy in early May.
At the end of the week we say our goodbyes, "great working with you," exchange emails, "take care," and "thank you for your service." What we don't say, because even after working closely with someone for a few 8 or 12 hour shifts, we don't know them nearly well enough to say these words, "Please come back home alive. Come back home to those three baby girls you showed me and your lovely wife who is now living far away from her family. Be brave. Come back home to your boxer dog who looks like a twin to my goofy BrutusBoy. We will think of you often and keep you in our prayers even though we can't possibly remember all your names and faces. Please come home safe and sound. Unharmed. Undamaged. Unscarred."
And so, at the end of our shifts together, the air becomes thick with what we don't say when we say,"Take care." Stay safe.