We were at the hospital finishing up with a routine patient when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a large man, dressed in the yellow and black of the hospital security uniform. He towered over me, huge but in a quiet and almost meek way.
"Excuse me I'm sorry to bother you," he said, "but do you work on Saturdays?"
I was a bit taken aback, wondering what this man wanted, but I answered. Sometimes I do work on Saturdays for overtime. Not all that often, but on occasion.
The man smiled at me, genuinely happy to hear the answer. He reached behind him and pulled out a large wallet, stuffed to capacity with photos arranged in cloudy laminate organizers. Flipping through them, he came to a picture of a young man dressed in a police uniform. The face in the picture could not have been older than 25 years, but it was firm and determined, proud and focused. The man scratched at the photo with his thumb.
"Do you recognize this boy?"
I didn't know the face, but I knew immediately who it was. A few months ago there was a terrible car crash on the highway, I remember hearing the story. A car was broken down late in the night, and officers stopped to see if they could assist. It was wet outside as it had just started raining, the roads had turned slick and drivers had not yet noticed the difference in traction. As the officers walked towards the broken down vehicle, another car came around a bend and struck this young man, throwing him a long distance up and off of the highway. He was later found by some of my coworkers, too far gone to even transport to the hospital.
I heard about it the next morning, and remember finding the story particularly haunting. Out of the blue on a normal day of work a car comes out of nowhere and that is it. Bang. He probably never even saw it coming.
The big man looked at me as I studied the photo. I wasn't sure what to say. I wasn't on the call but I knew what had happened, and it was difficult to come with the appropriate words.
"Is that the officer from the highway?" I asked.
"He was my son. I just wanted to find the paramedics who were there that night. I never got a chance to shake their hands, thank them and tell them that they did a good job."
His eyes were wet as he talked, holding everything back to the best of his ability as he attempted to maintain a casual conversation. He forced another smile.
"It's the two month anniversary."
I looked at the floor, sheepish and not wanting to look at the man who carried so much weight. I told him that I was sorry, that I wasn't there but I had heard about it and I could pass on the word. Again I told him I was sorry.... "for everything."
He righted himself as he tucked the large billfold into his pocket.
"Yeah...." he said, trailing off. "Thanks."
I shook his hand and he continued on his way, down the hallway to complete his work.