Posted by: njrigg | February 26, 2010



By Karen Eskew

January 18, 2005 started out as a typical day for this Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). The County Commissioners were meeting so I had to get the weekly ambulance report ready. The sun was shining after some really pretty dreary January days. I didn’t realize that in a few short hours my life and my family’s would change. A tragic accident would lead me on a spiritual path and struggle that I am still working through.

TristanAt 5:38 PM my EMT pager went off. I wasn’t on call yet so I was wondering why my pager was going off. I was wondering what kind of major emergency I was being paged on. The dispatcher’s voice came over the pagers saying, “Karen I need you to give directions to the ambulance.” I said, “Okay, Where is the ambulance going?” When she told me I knew that they were going to my niece’s house. I asked the nature of the call. She said, “They are starting CPR on a 3 year old.” My great nephew, Tristan, was 3. I raced out of the house and into my vehicle. Flashers flashing, I rushed to the ambulance station. The ambulance had left but a fellow EMT pulled in behind me. I told her that it was Tristan and I was on my way out to my niece Heather’s. She said get in and we took off in my vehicle. It seemed to take forever to go those 22 miles. I was giving directions to the ambulance as we were going. I was also praying for my family as we traveled those long miles.

We arrived at Heather’s house just as they had put Tristan in the back of the ambulance. I still didn’t know what had happened. I took Heather and Michael, her husband, back to town in my vehicle, following the ambulance. Praying was done on the way back to town. Heather and Michael were in the back seat of my vehicle. We didn’t say much as we went down those country roads.

We arrived at the hospital. Heather and Michael went into the hospital. I stopped to talk to the ambulance crew. Things didn’t look good for Tristan. He had fallen into the family fish pond. He wasn’t breathing and they’d had used the defibrillator three times on him on the way into town. He was also hypothermic.

We were allowed short amounts of time in the ER to talk to Tristan. I reminded him that we were going to have a play date, just the two of us, soon. He wanted to stay with me a few days before the accident and I couldn’t that day. Talk about feeling guilty that I didn’t just change my schedule and keep Tristan that day. Everything that could be done was being done in our little hospital ER.

After working on Tristan for over two hours, the doctor pronounced him dead. You are there standing in disbelief that this could happen. Everything that you remember from Church and Sunday School tells you that God is a loving God. As you watch the parents of this 3-year old deal with the realization that their son is dead, part of you wants to scream: “WHY? WHY?” “OKAY GOD, WHEN IS THIS HORRIBLE DREAM GOING AWAY!” “LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.”

It is true that life will never be the same. Tristan is no longer living here on earth. The “why” questions will continue for quite awhile, with no answers that really help the grieving family. He was such a special little boy. I wish that I could have spent more time with him while he was here on earth. The “would of, should of, could of” thoughts can really cause a lot of problems as you are going through the grieving process.

I gave the eulogy at Tristan’s prayer and funeral services. I was honored to do this for him as a final tribute to his short but wonderful life. I was one of the special people that were in the delivery room as he entered this world and in the ER as we said goodbye to this special boy. My final thought about Tristan was that we will miss you, but know that we will love you always and we will miss you. I could write pages about this special boy but I want to talk about how Tristan’s death has changed my spiritual journey and how dealing with this grief has been from other losses in my life.

TristanMaybe because Tristan was so young and the other deaths that have affected me have been older people is why this loss is different. Part of us thinks that only the old die. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. I am stuck questioning God as to why he would take a young child that had so much of life yet to experience.

I have learned a lot about myself over the last year. One thing that you have to do is allow yourself to grieve, even when you are trying to be strong and help the grieving family.  I was trying to be there for Michael and Heather, but if you don’t grieve as well, then you aren’t any help when you have a breakdown. They understand that you loved and cared for their loved one just as much as they did. Working together through the grief process is hard, but it helps to have someone accompany you on the journey. Being available to go visit or just listen on the phone is very important to a grieving person.  Grief can be very isolating.  Families often feel like everyone has abandoned them and they are struggling to grieve alone. Let them know that you will be there for them whenever or wherever they need you.

Another thing that has helped me is to keep a grief journal. It started out as a journal for Heather so that she could read about what happened at the hospital, since most of it is a blur for her. I added my thoughts as the year progressed. The nice thing about a grief journal is that there is no right way to do it. You write as much or as little as you want. It is not a daily journal, though it can be. You don’t have to worry about grammar or even or it makes sense, just write.

Remembering to take care of yourself is a lesson that I also had to learn. I wanted to be there for Heather and the rest of the family but Karen forgot to take care of Karen. This is not good.  We can’t do grief work for others.  It was good for Heather to have to work some of the things out for herself, instead of relying on Aunt Karen to help fix them.

Acceptance of God’s will is a hard part of the grieving process. We don’t know why God allows things to happen. A Bible verse that has beenTristan helpful this last year is Psalm 1239:16b “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” You know that I probably had read that Bible verse many times, but when Tristan died, it popped out as a verse that I needed to learn. I have found that more Bible verses have popped out, many that I usually just read over and never gave a second thought to them.

Grief is the hardest work that you will ever have to do. You feel as if you will never feel normal again.  The thing is: you have to find a “new normal.” Things will never be the same again, because your life has changed forever.

You will get to a new normal, though, slowly, over time. Your loved one will never be forgotten. You just get to the point where you can live life again. I haven’t reached that point yet, but it is getting closer to where I can say, “I am not sure why Tristan had to leave so soon, but thank you for the time that we had him with us here on earth, God.”

© Karen Eskew

February, 2006

Do not reproduce without first securing permission from the author and moderators of this blog.



  1. Karen this is beautiful and heartbreaking. What a beautiful boy. Thank you for your words here; I have learnt a lot from you.

  2. What a well written piece about your Tristan. He sounds like such a wonderful boy.

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