We need to start doing better. We need to learn how to support one another instead of tearing each other down. In a world where the only way out is through, it’s important to back up our brothers and sisters instead of pushing them out of the way to reach the top.
My name is Emily Agruss. I am a former military and fire wife. On September 9, 2016, my husband, Joshua Agruss, passed away following a fatal relapse of his addiction to prescription pain medication. Josh experienced a lot of trauma in his 33 years of life – much of it related to his time serving our country in Iraq and working as a firefighter and paramedic. The cultural norms of our society are currently placing a mostly negative stigma on the heroes of our nation not to seek help when they are struggling. As a direct result of this, my husband suffered in silence with symptoms of severe post-traumatic stress for many years. He never felt safe enough to ask for help. He lived in constant fear of being determined unfit for duty, being harassed for not being able to “suck it up” and from losing his job and the ability to help others – the one thing that got him out of bed each morning. This mentality is what is destroying the lives of countless individuals. It’s what is leaving thousands of spouses and children without a husband/wife and father/mother. Continue reading “For the Sake of Our Nation’s Heroes ~ A Widow’s Story”→
One of the darker and more difficult days I have had to endure in my career was attending “Shadowland”.
Located in the middle of an industrial area in the heart of a major city, surrounded by a high security fence, the building is an older style warehouse with no signage. It appears to be unoccupied as there are no workers’ cars or signs of life.
The building is brick façade and steel roof with brick walls about 8 foot high around the entire building. Two sets of high galvanized, colourbond doors that open from the middle are visible. There is broken asphalt leading to the doors where trucks unloading their cargo have torn up the pavement. Continue reading “Shadowland”→
Christmas 2016. This was my first Christmas without my wife who died November 1, 2016. Trying to prepare myself for that reality was difficult. I tried to juggle putting on a “happy” face for my sons and family while, at the same time, trying to remain as upbeat as I could and avoid the demons of despair, loneliness and emptiness. They are very good at what they are capable of doing, sneaky in their attacks and looming around just waiting for me to be most vulnerable. Once they attack, there is a prolonged period of recovery. Most of the time, I feel them coming and scream at them to just leave me alone.
These demons are not new to me. We’re old enemies. They tried to take over my life when I was suffering from PTSD. After 38 years of attacking me, they succeeded in breaking down my defenses. One thing I learned in “recovery” was that I’d have to reinvent myself, that the old life I lived no longer exists, and that a new me was born. During that recovery process, I had to get used to, and be re-acquainted with, the new me. Not an easy task reinventing yourself. I liked the old me and wanted to go back to him. But he died in that shoot out, died from PTSD. Continue reading “First Christmas”→
I carry her spirit and the spirits of many others along with me through this life and they will remain forever in my heart. They will continue to remind me that sometimes, the only thing I can do is just be there for my patient and let them know that someone does care.
I anxiously watched the clock’s second hand slowly ticking off the seconds until this shift was over. My ears strained to hear the sound of my replacement driving up the gravel driveway as I stared blindly out the window of the shift bedroom. “To hell with the call gods,” I thought and I packed up my duffel bag. Stuffing the pieces of my life that I carried back and forth to work with me into my old duffel bag, I defiantly dared the tones to drop. I glanced at the clock again and thought of how ironic it is that the last 30 minutes of any shift last the longest.
With another ten minutes to wait, I rolled up my sleeping bag and tossed it into the locker. I tensed a little, thinking I had heard the slight static the speaker system puked out before the tones dropped and stopped what I was doing to listen for the staccato beeps. But not this time. This time the beeps didn’t come and the speaker remained silent. This time the call gods must have sensed that I was teetering on the edge. They must have known what I did not know. Whatever it was, they waited until eleven minutes after I punched out to drop the tones and page the rig out to an assault on the other side of the reservation. Continue reading “The Pink Cross”→
by Kay Wilson-Bolton
Chaplain, Ventura County Fire Department
Observing others in grief can be as difficult as being in your own. The emotions for those standing by can range from fear, confusion, helplessness, anger, pity, frustration and deep sorrow.
Grieving is hard work, and its different for everyone. Ask the mother who never cried over the loss of four adult children and a granddaughter. Ask the long-married wife who cannot stop crying after the death of her husband. Ask the parents who just lost a newborn to SIDS death.
It’s difficult to know how to respond to people suffering grief. Those who are brave enough to speak often attempt to rationalize the death with personalized theological truths. Those who feel shy about reaching out to grieving people will avoid them altogether which can be as hurtful as saying the wrong thing.
If you plan to stay with the grieving person, don’t judge any behavior. If you want to be a friend in comfort, create an emotionally safe environment where anything goes and you are okay.
Most people know to never say, “I know how you feel.” No one can know how anyone feels. If it’s true, you can say, “I lost a daughter too. I know the pain.” However, give yourself permission to say nothing. Don’t compete with their grief. Your silence will be comfort enough, and you will know when it is time to speak. You can never really add value to sitting through a death by saying something. Your presence has its own value. Continue reading “Giving Grief A Chance”→
Once upon a time, the stories will tell
About a place here on Earth, between heaven and hell.
Where one need not sleep, to have the bad dreams
Because the flashbacks seem real, the smells and the screams.
For despite valiant efforts, sometimes they lose.
For some there are answers, but not many clues.
The cards stacked against them, the odds not very good
No… they didn’t give up, but did all that they could.
Everyone somber, a tear here and there.
Others are angry, some had The Thousand Yard stare.
“Welcome to Shadow Land”, a voice whispered softly.
“It’s a dark place to be, and the shadows are costly.” Continue reading “The Lights in Shadow Land”→
When I was a younger man, I took an oath to protect and serve my fellows. I wore a shiny badge on my chest, a bullet-proof vest, and carried a powerful weapon. At academy, I was at the top of my class, a squad leader, and an expert shot. I wore a blue uniform and polished black boots. I loved my job. We had codes for this, and codes for that, we had our own language. We were a special breed!
Some guys thought they were John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, or “The Rock.” Some were close to retirement, bitter, and gray. Others were young, inquisitive, and active. To some it was just a job, and for others it was a calling. The older guys had a tendency to look at every citizen as if they were all criminals. I guess they had seen the bad side of human beings for far too long. Some thought they were above the law, and better than other men. Me, I was the rookie! My main job was to get the older guys coffee at first. That wasn’t what I had signed on to do!
One fall evening I was sitting at the front desk with an icepack on my left knee. I had taken down a three hundred and fifty pound man during a scuffle to arrest him, earlier in the shift. I smashed my left knee on the road as I subdued him. Just then a call came in that there was a house fire near the station. I forgot all about my knee and sprung into action. My partner and I headed to the scene. Continue reading “They Called Us Heroes”→
The call comes in —
awakening my —
Another auto wreck —
off I go.
Never really making —
a clear transition from —
dream to —
Engine 63 is
Cool, I’ll get to see
my friend Dave.
They call for more help.
Extrication “ Patient’s pinned real bad.”
I arrive on scene —
to be greeted by —
a ghastly sight.
What once was a —
Honda CRX —
is now a —
twisted metal coffin.
The lights from —
the squad cast —
eerie shadows on —
us all. Continue reading “Drunk Driver”→
November 14, 2009 was a beautiful day, my 34th birthday and the worst day of my life.
November 14 was the day my beautiful mother was brutally murdered. The events of that gruesome, horrid day have never been released to the media or press. Only the victims involved, the Houston Police Department homicide investigators and the District Attorney’s office knew the exact details and prosecution evidence of this sensationalized case. Now am I able to share the true confidential information: my story, but more importantly, my mother’s story. She was a victim and my hero, because on that day my mother sacrificed her life. By doing so, she saved mine, forever changing it. The very core of Houston and our state shook at losing one of its finest DPS [Department of Public Safety] officers, my mother, my hero, Brenda. Continue reading “Love You More”→