Live your life and be open to its possibilities...
That was my message today, Thanks to Dr. Joe Gibson.
December 29, Jake's 13th birthday. Last Tuesday the four of us accompanied by 2 of Jake's buddies celebrated at PF Chang's. Driving home on Ranger Road we encountered a grisly scene. A car was stopped and straddled the yellow line as the driver shone his cell phone light onto to what appeared to be somebody down on the side of the road. We pulled over and discovered that a jogger had been hit in the bike lane and lay completely motionless on the pavement. His wife, who had been jogging at his side, was crying inconsolably and the teenager who hit him was practically hysterical. It was hard to tell if the victim had any pulse and from the looks of it, he was in very bad shape. A gaping wound on his ankle caught my eye as I noticed the man had completely come out of his running shoes which were strewn in the bushes and in the middle of the road. There was blood coming from his mouth and I could not see his chest moving whatsoever. It's hard to know what to do at a time like this. I whispered the beginning of an Our Father.
I hugged his wife and asked her name. Amidst sobs, she answered "Jennifer". I asked what her husband's name was to which she answered "Joe". I tried to ask some basic questions to buy some time until the emergency crew arrived. I learned that they were both running in the bike lane when Joe was hit. They had been married almost 9 years. We knelt down and talked to Joe and asked him to stay with us. A very long 20 or so minutes later, paramedics arrived on the scene. Seeing Joe's face, I was becoming more aware that this man may have died. His eyes were half closed and there was absolutely no movement. My oldest son was nearby. He tried to see if he could get a pulse from Joe. He was young. 38 years old. A good looking guy who I later learned was a tri-athlete training for the Rock N Roll Marathon. Paramedics were giving chest compressions; wailing from both Jennifer and the teen was now pronounced. It was an unforgettable scene.
Jennifer didn't have her cell phone. We talked about getting it from the house but the fire truck was ready to roll and take her down to John C. Lincoln Trauma Center. There wasn't time for anything else. I told her to go with her husband and I gave my telephone number to fireman to give to her. I told her to pray and I would pray too.
Cake and ice cream did not go down so well at the house. I phoned the hospital about an hour after the accident. Word from the RN came in a call or so later and I was asked to go to Jennifer and Joe's condo to retrieve Jennifer's cell phone. Karsten and I went quickly. I grabbed a set of rosary beads to pray on as we traveled.
We got down to the hospital as quickly as we could. My son and I had a great conversation about life, death, Joe and the medical profession where I learned that my son has a possible interest in working in this kind of profession. This was the first time I had ever heard him express this kind of interest. Down at the hospital, our visit was very brief. Joe was hanging on but he was in bad shape. Jennifer, sitting in a quite room with friends, gave me a huge hug. In the light, I could see she is a beautiful woman with long blonde hair. Still in running attire, she was grateful for the phone and her purse that I had also found in her condo. I gave her the rosary beads. Her friend accompanied me to the hallway where he gave me his card. He is an emergency room physician with Joe at their company (Emergency Physician Services) run out of Banner Good Samaritan Hospital. We offered our sympathies and were on our way.
Next morning, Wedesday, the report wasn't good. Joe was pronounced brain dead and they were keeping him on life support until his parents arrived from visiting family in Germany.
I got a call from Jennifer on Sunday. I was humbled that she called me. She told me that Joe died on December 30 after his parents said goodbye. She told me that Joe was a beautiful soul and everyone who knew him, loved him. She invited me and my family to the funeral which was today. A packed house, I've never been so moved by a memorial service as I was at today's. Joe the Jogger was a superhero of sorts and the testimonies of his family and friends was an enormous witness to this. He loved to help people. He was there for people. Many people referred to Joe as their 'best friend'. He was a patriot. He served our country in the U.S. Navy for 3 years. He sacrificed for others. He was an adventurer and he loved to live life to its fullest. As his father so eloquently said of him: "Joe remained open to all of life's possibilities. He left behind 2 parents, a brother, 2 sisters, neices and a nephew,aunts and uncles, friends, colleagues and patients. And Jennifer. His best, best friend.
I didn't know Dr. Joe Gibson in this life, but I have this pleasant, tranquil feeling that I will know him in the next one. I am struck by the fact that Joe may be acquainting himself with all of the folks that he has helped during his medical practice. I am also humbled by all of the crossing, overlapping and intersections that bring people together. There simply are no such things as coincidences. On the night he died, Joe saved the lives of 4 other people via organ donation.
Was it chance to be driving down this road? No. I think we were supposed to be there. What a sacred, holy place to be.
Joe died as he lived. Enjoying an evening run with his wife at his side. He probaby didn't even know what hit him. I will take the lesson of his life though gratefully and apply it to my own...Live your life (emphasis on the live part!) and be open to its possibilities.
Thanks Dr. Joe Gibson, I wish I would have known you during your life. I am grateful for the fragment that I was able to participate in. May you rest in peace and may the angels lead you to paradise.
Joe Gibson, RIP
July 11, 1971-December 30, 2009