Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
– Frank Herbert, Dune
I took a course this week in CPR and the use of an electronic defibrillator. The class was offered by my employer at my day job and I went for it. That may not seem like such a remarkable choice, but for me, it was. Y’see, I’ve historically been very squeamish about medical-type things. I’ve never been the guy you want around when blood is squirting out of your face. Such scenes have historically made me weak-kneed and nauseous. Mind you, that still isn’t where I want to be, but I thought it was high time I tried to get around such feelings, for my own good and the potential good of those around me.
The class consisted of a dozen eager students and two Red Cross instructors. The more dominant of the two, Dale, was a real character. He’s a former cop and an intense, compulsively social sort of fellow; the kind of guy you can’t help liking, even though you realize that he’d probably drive you nuts if you had to drive cross-country with him. He mentioned proudly that he’d appeared on a couple episodes of ER. He didn’t say anything more about it though, leaving us to imagine that perhaps they wanted someone who looked like they knew how to do CPR and figured using him would be easier than trying to get an actor to do it properly.
Just to complete the picture, the class spent a good deal of time going over basic emergency response procedures, particularly when the emergency consists of dealing with an unconscious person. We worked in pairs and it was a little comical that I, being the largest person in the class, was paired up with the smallest person in the class. She was barely able to get her arms around me to simulate the position for helping a choking victim, and when it came time for her to roll me over while I feigned unconsciousness – well, once we determined that she would have had to risk ripping my pants in order to yank me over, the instructor intervened and told us we could stop.
But about that defibrillator. I unzipped the case and out fell the defibrillator, landing on the floor with a clatter. This led the other instructor to point at me and declare, “This isn’t the guy you want saving your life!” It was meant as a joke, I guess, and we all laughed, but it still stung a little in light of my aforementioned personal history in such matters.
It’s an old memory, and those are often the most potent. I was in my teens. Sitting in the dining room one evening, I suddenly heard a horrific sound from outside the house – crashing and wrenching of metal. It could only be a car crash, I thought, and I was the first one to run out the door. A car had indeed crashed into the huge semi our trucker neighbor had parked (illegally) on the street. The driver and lone occupant of the car, who I remember only as a slender woman, was staggering straight toward me, blood spurting from her face. I assume her nose was broken. I froze, then backed away and went back into the house, feeling more than a little faint. I was Completely Useless. Fortunately for the woman, I come from a big family. Other people provided a chair and towel and stayed with her until an ambulance arrived.
Now you or I could offer a dozen reasons why I shouldn’t be too hard on myself over that episode, and we’d be right. And really, it’s not something I particularly beat myself up over. But the memory remains, as does the knowledge it imparted to me about myself. But one dusty memory does not constitute one’s destiny, so this class I’ve just taken is perhaps a small step toward pushing that moment even further into the past.
A week ago, I couldn’t even spell CPR, and now I have a card in my wallet that says I’m qualified to administer it. With any luck, I’ll never be called upon to prove the validity of that card, but doggone it, if someone needs it and I’m around, I’m giving it my best shot!
* * *
In other news, I’ve been asked by the Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding gang to take part in the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade. For the first time in a few years, it will actually take place on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17. This will be the 5th time I’ve marched in it as Father Mark. So if you’re either in attendance or watching the parade on TV, keep an eye out for the TnT gang!