Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Brian Baxter

Did he feel any pain, or was it as if he passed from one state of being to another? I heard it was a cooking related fire, in his top floor apartment, in an old converted house, three stories up. If that volunteer firefighter hadn't been walking by, more lives would have been lost. Two other women who lived in the 2nd floor apartment, and a family on the ground floor were helped to safety by everyone that had been summoned by the volunteer fire fighter on his way to Plaid Pantry for a cup of coffee before his early shift, around 5:30 AM.

So I'm at work a couple of days ago, and my co-cube mate takes a call from the County Medical Examiner. I hear her ask a couple of questions and then asks the caller to hold for a moment. She turns to me and asks, can we give information about an employee out to the medical examiner? I tell her no, not unless we have a signed consent from the employee. My cube-mate pauses, returns to the call and re-iterates what I just told her. "Uh huh....uh huh...oh, my....okay.......can you hold again please?" She turns to me and says, "They've identified a guy who died as Brian Baxter, found my business card in his wallet, and are trying to contact his family.

What??

I swear this guy had called me every couple of days for about 6 months. Then my Recruiter/cube mate joined our workforce, and I turned his file over to her. Brian was really polite, I'd have to say the most polite person I've ever known. He'd always end his conversations (no matter how long or short) "Thank you. God Bless You," in a robotic monotone. I think he had some degree of mental illness, maybe schizophrenia, but not so severe that he was walking around talking about conspiracies and getting shots in his eyeballs to improve his vision. A few other people at our workplace who knew of Brian would quote his, "Thank you, God Bless" whenever his name was brought up.

Brian was an honest, good guy. He really tried and worked hard, but it wasn't enough. Our company tried him out in many different positions, and a variety of managers tried to strategize how to best utilize Brian's strengths to keep him employed, but he was finally let go for unsafe work practices. I'm not sure exactly what incident led to his final termination, but I heard it involved a weed whacker.

Well, a few of us in our department had grown to really know Brian, so we helped him fix up a resume, got him job leads, tipped him off to job fairs that were occurring and let him know where we'd be to lend support and encouragement, introduced him to our contacts at other companies and connected him with information about services and resources he didn't know about.

It had been about a month since I heard from Brian, and I never thought for a split second that the house fire reported on the news Sunday morning was Brian's place. He was the only one who wasn't saved that morning. One of the volunteer fire fighters interviewed afterward said they suspected the fire started in the top studio apartment, they were unable to get to the person inside because the room was engulfed in flames.

What a horrible way to die, unless he passed out from smoke inhalation and didn't feel a thing. I mean, it's still a horrible way to go but I would feel a little better about it if they could confirm that he was unconscious when he caught fire or whatever happened. I can't get over how nice he was, what a strange, random process of selection life makes. What's Brian doing now? Nothing? has he been reborn? Did he achieve nirvana? Is he at the pearly gates, holding a ticket and waiting to get in? Brian was in his mid-thirties and about 5 foot 6. He had blond hair and a goatee, and a stocky build. He must have told me "Thank you, God bless you" at least a hundred times.

The whole thing really makes me think about how quickly circumstances can change, in the blink of an eye something about your life can change drastically.

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