Matt, The Destroyer…

“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”  I have always been drawn to what Oppenheimer said that fateful day some lifetimes ago. I think mainly due to its poignancy and unflinching honesty. As I have grown with age and my career expanded upon by experience, I find myself drawn even closer to that hauntingly sinister statement…


As a paramedic, or first responder, we chase the bad things, usually arriving after it has already happened. In many of those cases, we arrive just seconds too late, and ultimately become burdened to be uniformed witnesses to tragedy and heartache. This is not done so by design or by apathy. This is due to the nature of the world we work in. A world torn between life, and death. As a paramedic, we are tasked with the often impossible – to try and reverse the inevitable. And try we do…


On those times where I have found myself within a stranger’s home, standing overtop of the newly deceased, or in the next room, confronting the loved one of another lost soul, it truly feels as though in those hopeless moments, that I am the destroyer of worlds. Their world, anyway. From my lips, come the words and sounds that fill them to capacity with dread. In one complete, soft-spoken sentence, I rip their fucking world apart – I’m sorry, their gone, there’s nothing more I can do… And after uttering that awfully rehearsed sentence, we leave. Vanish, as if to be ghosts ourselves.


I am become death, the destroyer of worlds…


On a multitude of occasions that are impossible to forget or ignore, I have been assaulted by the wailing cries of grief that bellow out from a scorned lover, left behind by their now absent loved one. I have watched as the elderly throw themselves to the floor where their loved one lay, with no regard for their own brittle bones or paper-like skin. They fall without care or precaution just to be nearer to their recently departed, one last time. This is a sight nigh impossible to describe, even though every painstaking detail of those moments are branded onto my mind as vividly as the objects placed in front of me here and now. Just as I have had people collapse into my arms from fatiguing grief, I have also been pushed aside and told to “get out”, because I had failed to correct the perceived wrong. I have seen pairs of eyes look at me with hopeless vulnerability, and I have seen eyes of the normally relaxed and gracious soul become unhinged with anger and fueled with rage burn their gaze through me. In those times, I have no doubt become, the destroyer of worlds


When I see pictures of Oppenheimer, I fear that I project my own images of hopelessness and despair onto him but, the lugubrious look cast forth from his black and white eyes, is the very same I see when I catch my gaze pathetically staring back at me from the steam coated mirror of my bathroom. It is what I see with each passing reflection throughout the day. Just as he realized what he had done, I too realize what I have done, or at times, failed to do.


On one such time, where death and his intentions proved to be more cunning and swift, I placed my gloved hand onto the shoulder of a bereaved woman who sat with her head and face melted into her hands. I placed my hand on her left shoulder and began to speak. I started telling her that I, along with my partner and team of uniformed personnel, had failed. That the Reaper had bested us and our vainglorious certificates and qualifications. Just as quickly as I had placed my empathetic hand onto this quivering woman’s shoulder, it was swiftly and angrily knocked loose and away by the swatting of her left hand. I was standing, and she was seated, but in that moment when she glared upwards towards me, I felt as small as the most infinitesimal spec of dust within that now broken home. Once more, I had fractured the world of another. Irrevocably so.



There are times now, in the present, where I find myself looking around a crowded room, examining the faces of other patrons, wondering if they would judge me at my times of failure just as I had been that day. If I wandered over to their table, and explained to them the series of events that unfolded during those moments where I conceded to defeat at the hands of the Reaper, would they judge me for ripping apart the world of those left living. Would they judge me? Would they judge me just as I do?


I know it’s not my fault… or, I should say, I know it’s not my fault, but, then whose? I mean, I was there, in that room, my hands violently beating up and down on their chest, my fingers readying  tubes designed to open an airway and breathe for a person, me, I was the one doing all of that, and it just wasn’t good enough. Or, was it me? Was I not good enough? The average person would say that I “did the best – “I could, but, is that being said out of kindness and lack of personal connection to what happened, or do they mean it? Hell, when I tell myself that it wasn’t my fault, do I even mean it!? … In school we are taught that if you perform A, B, and C, then all will work out – for the most part. But, in real life, when we do A, B, C, D, X, Y and Z, and it still doesn’t work out, what then? I have never found it easy to just say, I tried, and then carry on.


I suppose it does not help that at one time in particular, my ex, a woman who was by design, supposed to love me unconditionally, for better or for worse, berated me during one of our famous, now infamous arguments, bringing into question my skills as a medic, by ceasing to shout and then slithering forth the words from her venomous tongue, saying “OK, hero, if you weren’t such a loser, that boy would probably still be alive! You fucking fake medic!” … She was of course referencing a young fourteen-year-old boy whom I had responded to, and failed to bring back from the Reapers cold embrace after hanging himself from a rafter within his basement a month or so earlier. Her words cut me deeper than any knife could. Leaving a scar of self-doubt and a festering infection of lingering self-loathing at the possibility that maybe, maybe it is me, maybe I am the one who failed because, I-simply-was-not-good-enough?


I am sure it will depend on who you survey but, most people will likely and kindly say that I did my best and that of course, it’s not my fault for the losses witnessed during my time as a medic, but, there are also those whom would likely say to you what I fear the most, that on more than one occasion – I am become death, the destroyer of worlds


I feel your pain Julius. I feel your pain brother…

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