A letter to the providers on the anniversary of Zippy’s death and Whidbey CareNet’s birth

Last year on Christmas Day, a 9-year-old died here on Whidbey Island under the most unusual circumstances. As her family traveled on a road they’d traveled many times before, Death reached into their car, snatched the youngest child from the back seat, and left her family and her community reeling.

Rob was on duty that day. Witnessing the death of a child he knew and experiencing first-hand its impact on her family broke him wide open. He put his head on the hood of the chief’s car and wept right there on the scene.

In the year since Zippy’s death opened Rob’s heart, he has remained open and vulnerable—through the end of a 20-year career as a carpenter, unemployment, the end of a 35-year marriage, moving out of the home he’d shared with his family, becoming a full-time college student, and being diagnosed with what his doctor called “as close to cancer as you can get without actually calling it cancer.” Rob allowed himself to feel it all and I (Petra) have never seen a man cry as often as I’ve seen him cry over the past year.

As a Whidbey CareNet provider, you’ve volunteered to help emergency responders like Rob, and no one has benefitted more from your care than he has this past year. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the way you have carried him through this time.

As we approach another Christmas, we are all impacted by the senseless deaths of more children—this time on the other side of the country. I am struck by how many recent photos of Newtown, Connecticut, I’ve seen with emergency responders in the background. And I find myself wishing they had a CareNet that offers them support in the same way that you support our emergency responders here on Whidbey Island.

Fred Rogers once said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in the world.”

What we know now, a year after Zippy’s death, is that it was not senseless. Beautiful things came of it, including Whidbey CareNet. Based on our experience, we know that, somehow, good will come from the deaths of the children who died in Newtown last week.

As we approach the first anniversary of Zippy’s death and the first anniversary of Whidbey CareNet’s birth, we thank you for being a helper.

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