Haunted by helicopters

Every time a helicopter flies overhead, I find myself on the verge of tears.

When Pam phoned me, Simone was on her way to the emergency room at Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport. I was in the conference room at work in Cambridge. I turned to Adam and simply said, “I have to go.”

I somehow willed the car through Monday early evening rush hour traffic, up the ramps, over the Tobin, up Route 1, on to 95 north. I managed to squeeze and dodge and keep forward momentum at all costs, upset, knowing I was upset, knowing that I had to drive safely, but knowing that Simone’s life was hanging by a thread and that every minute counted.

The weekend was unusually warm for March, it had been sunny and in the mid-70s. The weather was shifting a little, and with a cooler front moving in, the wind had picked up and was actually tearing at the coast. My car was buffeted on my drive up, it felt like the sun and the wind were both trying to push me off the highway into the hay farms on the east side of I-95 as I rocketed northward.

Pam and Lisa were in the ER reception area, actually more like backstage at the ER, it felt like. There was a social worker, whose name I forget, but she was as kind as she could be to us. We were put in a small private waiting room until we could be told Simone’s status.

We were told that Simone was stable. The bleeding was under control. She was on a medication that kept her immobilized. She needed to be moved to Beth Israel in Boston, immediately. Ordinarily, she would have been flown down in a helicopter, but all flights weere grounded because of the extremely high winds. She was going to have to ride down in an ambulance.

We were brought in to see her as they were prepping her for the trip. She was on a ventilator, so they had to switch around wires and power supplies and IV lines and such. We were introduced to the two men who were going to drive her down and care for her. Again, I forget their names, but at that moment they struck me as the most competent men in the world. Pam asked me if I would be willing to ride down with them, and I bravely said of course I would, but the driver told me that they couldn’t take me on board.

Just before they wheeled Simone to the van, we went over to her. I looked in her eyes, which were half open. I leaned over and spoke to her softly, and told her that these two handsome men were going to take real good care of her, and that she was lucky to be riding with such good-looking guys, and that I wouldn’t be away long, and that I would see her in Boston real soon. I told her I loved her, and how she had really great people looking after her.

The driver told me that they might have to turn on the lights, just to hurry things up and make the ride smoother and quicker. All I could do was nod and wish them good luck. I told them to take care of my baby.

The last time I saw those men was in the downstairs ER receiving area in Boston, at Beth Israel. I thanked them, before we were ushered in to yet another small waiting room.

Fast forward to today.

I work across the river from the Mass General Hospital buiding where the med-evac flights land and take off. Each time I hear a helicopter, I get all trembly, and tears well up a little, and I say a prayer for the pilots and passengers.

I’ll Fly Away

There were many, many high points at Simone’s memorial service on Saturday. In fact, you might even say the whole service was one high point from one end to the other. I cannot begin to thank everyone personally for their help and participation. I’m sure I’ll forget someone who’s dear and close to me and I would never want to hurt anyone, so thanks. You know who you are.

You know how in the Navy, or in the Air Force, when a fighter has fallen and the squad does a fly-over with one position empty? I’m not sure the same thing exists in music. Leave out a part and the harmony is strangely wrong, or the melody is missing – which might prove the point, granted, that some one is missing, but might not pay as much tribute to that person as one might want.

I cried with joy when I would sing in my kitchen with Simone and Johnny. One December evening, we called my mom and sang 3-part carols to her. She wept with delight. I was so proud my chest felt like it was going to burst, and I relived that phone call all night long as I tried to fall asleep.

Simone loved the soundtrack to “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?” and we sang “I’ll Fly Away” together whenever the music sort of found itself under my fingers on guitar or mandolin. I’d do it as a duet with her, and if Johnny was around we’d sing trio.

Jennifer took Simone’s place in the flying formation on Saturday, and we sang for Simone, and I could hear a pin drop when we finally stopped and our harmony echoed around for a bit. I know Simone was smiling.