The Memory Of A Story

I saw an abulance yesterday driving through the neighborhood. It crossed the street in front of me, slowly. Quietly. No lights or sirens. I suppose thats what grabbed my attention. Generally when I think of ambulances, I think of lights and sirens and speed and urgency. I think of desperation and praying. I think of panic and heroes. All in a sudden flash.

But yesterday, in that slow moment, one particular memory presented itself. Its not even my memory, rather a memory of a story. Perhaps I remember it because I know the people in the story. Perhaps I remember it because I want to imagine that all drivers are heroes, in case I need one. Perhaps I remember it simply because its a story that deserves to be remembered. And so ...

Once upon a time there was a man. A rather nice man. Average, with average problems. A reasonable mortgage. A sweet wife and children. A job he mostly liked. Friends. In fact, he had one friend in particular. We should all be so blessed! They had been best-friends since kindergarten, even living on the same street when they grew up. Separated by only two fields and a railroad track. Technically, I suppose it should be called a "road" instead of a "street" since it was out in the county. A long straight flat road.

The man was a volunteer. They need a lot of volunteers out in rural areas, and he firmly believed in volunteering. He had volunteered for the military. Now, He volunteered at the local fire-department. He volunteered at the local school. He volunteered at the local church. He volunteered at the local ambulance squad.

He worked nights, so he was a natural fit to be the afternoon volunteer at the rescue/ambulance squad. He could sleep at the station, since they almost never got a call. But he was there, just in case. And he was there the day they got The Call.

A woman was having chest-pains. Then it hit him. He knew the address. He knew his best friend's wife had a heart condition, even though she was just a 30-something stay-at-home-mom. He knew time mattered. Thats how it came about that he was driving the ambulance very fast on the road that went in front of his house that afternoon when his wife was working in the flowerbed on the side of their house that faced the field between the house and the railroad tracks.

She heard the siren and straightened up, looking toward the road, probably wondering if it were him. Then she heard the whistle.

He knew the train was coming. He knew that freight trains in that part of the country are ridiculously long, sometimes stopping traffic for minute upon minute. Minutes he couldn't afford to waste. He knew he'd never make it in time if he touched the brakes.

There were lots of things he didn't know. He didn't know his wife was watching everything in slow motion as the ambulance and the train approached the exact same spot. He didn't know her scream would haunt his children's dreams for the rest of their lives. He didn't know the ambulance would make it by only inches, so close that the engineer thought he had hit him. He didn't know that would be the last time drove the ambulance.

Even though there was the happy ending, his wife couldn't take the stress of wondering about the next call. And the next and the next. So. That was his last drive. But it was the one that mattered. For that afternoon, he was his best-friend's hero. The hero everyone dreams of, and dreams of being. We should all be so blessed.

Make Waves

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