Last weekend, after our incredible visit with Paul, Lisa, Lauren and their family, Paul drove us to the Kingston ferry where we’d catch our connection back to Edmonds. On that short drive, he told us this story that I can’t get out of my mind.
Paul has been a firefighter in Southern California since before we met him almost 25 years ago. He has seen much. But this one stuck with him… and now it’s sticking with me:
Paul was called to the scene of an accident where two cars had crashed in the middle of a busy intersection. I don’t know any details of the crash or what caused the accident. I only know that the first thing that Paul encountered when he approached one of the cars was milk. Milk was everywhere, covering every surface of the inside of the car.
In the driver’s seat of this car was a man who was dying of his injuries. Between this dying man’s knees was the now-almost-empty gallon of milk. Try as they might, there was nothing the firefighters could do to save him.
As captain, Paul’s duty at that point was to find and notify next of kin. He found the man’s address, noticing that he lived less than two blocks from the scene of the accident.
Paul knocked on the door and was greeted by a young woman carrying a toddler on her hip. She greeted Paul politely and before Paul could tell her why he was there (and probably believing that he was there on some PR solicitation call) she said, “Oh, you’ll want to talk to my husband. He’ll be right back; he just ran to the store to buy some milk…”
Even after 30 years as a firefighter, Paul was stunned speechless for a moment – and then knew he had to break the devastating news to this young mother – this sudden widow. He said that this particular call haunts him more than most of what he’s seen, and that it reminds him of the importance of cherishing every second we have with the people we love and taking nothing for granted.
So when you leave the house today, whether for a long trip or for a momentary run to the corner grocery, remember the the tears that have been shed over spilled milk.