On the side of the angels

April 30, 2008
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For some reason this past Christmas, 2007, was the hardest of all of the 58 years I’ve been on this earth, and I’ve had some bad ones. As a child, some of our Christmases were less than white, and since our beloved son, Pat, was killed 14 years ago in a grain silo, we have had some tough ones without him.

Not everybody gets to enjoy a great Christmas. It’s not all snow and good will and peace on earth. For the thousands of families who lose loved ones on the job every year, it is very hard to celebrate the holidays. The death changes every part of the family and every part of our daily lives. We cope and we carry on. But we are burdened by many obstacles. The first Christmas is always the worst, and each year after, you have to find a way to move forward for the rest of the family and world.

A precious minute

This year I was out shopping for gifts and trying to keep up a happy front when I happened on an old van pulled to the side of the road, hood up and you could tell it was in distress. I pulled over to offer assistance. I saw the old-timer sitting up on the hill under a tree and as I approached him he had a twinkle in his eye, even though he was quite old and disheveled.

I said, “Hello, can I help?” He answered with a soft voice and a big smile, “I’m ‘the minute man.’ I’ve been waiting on you to come.”

He acted like he had known me forever. I was not only surprised but taken aback, because I’ve never met this man before.

We talked about several things as we made our way to the old van, and as we got there, he got in the driver’s seat and started the old van the first time. I didn’t know what to say. The old-timer said, “I’ve been waiting on you today so I could give you the Christmas present you’ve wanted for years.”

He asked me to turn around. I did, and there was Pat, our son, alive and in front of me. We hugged, we laughed, we cried, we talked about everybody and everything. He looked so good. He said he was proud of how we had honored him with The FIGHT Project and helping all the other families with workplace fatalities like his, and he said he had met most of the other families loved ones. He said he was happy and he missed wrestling with me and all the things we used to do, and he said to tell mom, “I love her, and Andy, Denise and Ann, I miss them, and never forget the good times we had.” And then he was gone.

I turned around to talk to the old-timer and beg for more time, but he was gone. You know, even though I only had a minute, like all of us families wish for, it was truly the best present I had ever had.

Keep on keeping on

Since it’s beginning in 1995, The FIGHT Project has helped approximately 756 families and counting. We have helped injured workers, murder victims, and all manner of fatalities. We help with the grief process, information on benefits packages, OSHA regulations, state laws and basically give the families a shoulder to lean on.

This is at no cost to the family or loved ones. We will not accept money for our help: we work on donations, grants and our own money. We set up this project to help everyone no matter what the economic circumstances of the family. We also conduct free safety classes and give safety speeches all over this great country. We hand out hundreds of safety books each year for free.

A privilege

This Christmas we had the privilege to help a family in north Alabama.

A beautiful mother, daughter, sister and friend, Mrs. Tina Brewer Hall, was lost in a chemical explosion at a Toyota plant in Kentucky last June. The large family was devastated. This family was as close as I had ever seen, and Christmas was very hard for the whole family and community. We held a candlelight service, a grief share program, and gave Bibles to help ease the pain. Still, as you can only imagine, Christmas 2007 was the worst for this family — and the sad part is all the Christmases to come will be hard.

The saddest part of this whole story is that this angel didn’t have to die on the job. No one should, but until we get people to listen to make sure workplaces are safe, we will continue to lose our angels. Please make sure you do all you can to have a safe workplace, and please pray for the families of victims and that such tragedy will not strike you.

And for every one of you who reads this, please make sure every minute with your loved ones is enjoyed to its fullest. To the families who have already experienced a tragic loss, always dwell on the good times and find a way to honor your departed.

If you need help, just call FIGHT @ 251-990-8644 or e-mail @ rhfight@att.net.

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