Release
By Maureen

music and lyrics by Pearl Jam, standard disclaimers apply.
for Frank, Gretchen, Hans, Clayton and everyone else from firetruck 271 on Apache Blvd. DD and I think you guys rock!!

***

Hank Beecham slowly closed the eyes of the girl before covering her body with a plain white sheet. "Time of death, 7:13pm," he said checking his watch. The doctors would officially pronounce her dead at the hospital, but she hadn't had a pulse in over 5 minutes, despite their best efforts.

From somewhere far off he could hear people crying, talking about what had just happened. It barely registered to Hank though, busy over seeing the clean up of their equipment and loading the body into the back of the ambulance. After a minute, his consciousness returned to reality and he noticed the people.

There were always people at these accidents. Friends, family, onlookers curious to see what was going on, thankful that it wasn't them on the backboard a tube snaked down their throat to try to force air in their lungs. Hank rarely paid them any attention.

He climbed into the passenger seat of the ambulance and they took off, heading towards the hospital.

I see the world
Feel the truth
Which way to go
Windowsill
I see the words
On a rocking horse of time
I see the birds in the rain

"I hate DOA paperwork," Val complained, rubbing her eyes at the hospital. "It takes forever. And we're just going to have to repeat it at the station."

"Yeah," Hank agreed absentmindedly, not really paying attention or caring. His mind was on the girl they had brought in. He felt responsible. He always did. Usually it was simple though, they were his patients and his actions determined if they lived or died. Simple.

This time it was more complicated. He knew her. And he knew how he could have possible prevented this from happening and yet he hadn't. So in his mind, he reasoned that he had unwittingly doomed her to death. And that was hard to accept.

Regardless of whether the girl, or her family, would have agreed is irrelevant. Hank blamed himself and that was all there was to it in his mind. Nothing could convince him otherwise.

Oh dear Diane
Can you see me now?
I am myself
Like you somehow
I'll ride the wave
Where it takes me
I'll hold the pain
Release me

"I could have prevented this," Hank suddenly said a few hours later. The entire squad was sitting in the common room doing homework when he pronounced this. Val and Tyler looked up as one from where they were studying precalc and Jamie even glanced up from his French text.

"All you need to do it learn to conjugate past imperfect tense," Jamie replied, thinking that the older EMT was referring to his plumeting French grade. "I'll help if you want."

"No, not that," Hank said, dismissing his grades. "I mean Diane. The girl from earlier."

"She was a street kid, Hank, shot for drugs or sex or money or a combination of all three," Val tried to explain.

"I could have stopped it," he insisted, "She wasn't always living on the streets. She used to live next door to me. And when her family lost everything they lived out of their car. I wanted to let them live in my house, but we couldn't. This was at my old house back in middle school. And I tried to help get them off the streets..." he trailed off in memory.

Diane, the oldest daughter, had dropped out of school first, turning tricks to help feed her family. She had also left first so that they would have more room, still turning tricks to help support herself.

He continued, "But Diane kept turning tricks and got herself into more and more trouble. I kept in touch with her though, I saw her sometimes. I would slip her some money when I could." Hank's voice broke, tears beginning to well up in his eyes, "And I tried to get her off the streets. Her family got on welfare a year ago. Diane didn't move into the apartment with them though. She was still out working the streets as she had since she was 14."

"It's not your fault Hank," Tyler told him firmly, not sure what to say to his best friend. "you tried to help, you did your best."

Oh...

Hank stood up and headed out back to where the basketball goal was. He needed to think.

A few minutes later, Jamie sat down on the grass next to him, surprising Hank. He would have expected Val or Tyler, but not Jamie.

"I think you did help," Jamie said.

"Everyone said that."

"No, I mean, her dying. Now she's off the streets and safe and in a better place. And you don't have to worry about her anymore. Sometimes, death is a blessing. Everyone seems to think that because someone died it is a time to mourn, and it usually is, but sometimes, it is a time to celebrate. Celebrate the good parts of their life and be thankful for having met them and known them and that they are now in a better place."

"You think she went to heaven then?"

"Yeah. I mean, she was a prostitute because she felt she had no choice, but she wasn't inherently evil. She was trying to get by." Jamie stood up and brushed his pants off. "Think about it."

Oh dear Diane
Can you see me now?
I am myself
Like you somehow
I'll wait up in the dark
For you to speak to me
I'll open up
Release me...
Oh...

Hank Beecham stood at the simple gravestone in the poorer part of the cemetary. In the rich part the gravestones were large, ornate fixtures of marble with caligraphy letters and important epithets, but in this part, they were small, gray granite semi-ovals with only the name and date of the deceased. A few had an extra word or two, but most didn't.

Bending down he placed some fire and ice roses on the ground in front of the gravestone. "You're in a better place now, Diane. And maybe I helped," he whispered.

***
A/N:
DOA: Dead On Arrival

Maybe my family is odd, but we would rather celebrate someone's life instead of mourning their death. It just seems more appropriate. They have moved on to a better place (be that heaven, a nothingness without pain, reincarnation limbo or whatever you believe) so why be upset that they are no longer with you? You'll join them soon enough. As my father once said "When a friend dies, you lose a friend. But when you die, you lose ALL your friends."