I’ve never really been afraid of dying until now. Death has always been a metaphor for broken hearts and dirty dishes. But the truth is I am terrified of dying, maybe because a week ago death was all too real for me. How many moments in life can you look back and say, “That’s when it all changed”? I can honestly say March 2, 2014 is a day I will never forget. But it all started the night of February 27th. I was brushing my teeth when I felt my lungs constricting. My breaths quickened as the sharp pain in my chest grew dull almost as if someone was pushing against me with the intentions of boring a hole through my chest. The bottom of my spine prickled at my legs until they gave out. I can’t remember if I passed out but the bathroom tile was cold against my right cheek. I don’t know how long I was lying there but the reality of it all was too much. I remember hearing the whimpering that echoed through the bathroom walls. I didn’t realize the whimpers were coming from me. I remember the faint voice of my name being called. Panic etched its way into his voice as he saw his daughter lying on the bathroom floor. I don’t remember the car ride, the wheel chair, or the blood. I don’t remember the x-rays, the hospital gown, or the IV’s. I don’t remember telling my family I loved them or that my sister’s finance looks like an “elf.”(I think the Lortab and Morphine had something to do with that). I remember waking up the next morning back in my own home and desperately needing to stop the pain. I don’t remember swallowing the forty or so Tylenol. I don’t remember the handfuls of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. I remember finding the empty bottles and knowing something was wrong. In my current state it was a miracle I told my sister about the drugs. I remember her showing me the bottles that once held several pills. I didn’t understand what was going on. All I wanted was for the pain to stop. I remember apologizing over and over again without understanding why. The next thing I knew I was in the back of my parent’s car on our way to a different E.R while throwing up the remnants of dinner the night before. I remember the emergency room in Murray. It was the second longest hour of my life. Even though I was violently throwing up I still had to take a number because my vitals were “stable.” I know that other people were in worse conditions but in that moment all I could make out was “I AM NEVER HAVING CHILDREN!” for some reason I thought I was going into labor even though I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I don’t remember changing back into the blue polka dotted gown or the moment my friends showed up, but I do remember the concerned look on my parents face as the doctor informed them on the seriousness of the situation.
I think I am most bummed that I can’t remember the ambulance ride to Primary Children’s Hospital. The last time I was emitted to Primary Children’s was when I was three. The cut off is 18 so I made it by 4 months. I am pretty sure I was the oldest patient there. I remember the look on the volunteers face when he knocked on the door and asked if I wanted to use the craft cart. It was quite awkward considering the fact that I was older than him. Apparently Primary Children’s doesn’t necessarily accommodate for 17 year old's. I was expecting some Fault In Our Stars romance but instead I got Derrick the balding male nurse who tried comforting me while I puked my guts out. Not exactly the romance story I was going for but don’t get me wrong Derrick was awesome he let my friends stay past visiting hours and brought me prizes from the prize closet, which mainly consisted of blankets, story books, and stuffed animals (may I remind you it was a children’s hospital).
The hospital bed was like sleeping on cardboard and the sheets were rough against my skin. The IV’s prevented me from being able to go to the bathroom by myself or sleep in any position other than on my back. The bruises on my arms grew in size as they kept poking and pricking at my skin. The hourly checkups throughout the night to make sure my heart was still beating made it difficult to escape the pain.
I thought Friday was pretty much the worst day of my life but when Sunday rolled around I came face to face with death, the reason I can't sleep at night. I remember waking up at 4 am on Sunday morning feeling as though I just ate something that expired in 1967. The plastic blue bags quickly became my best friend. My body grew tired as the hours went on. The puking continued nonstop for 14 hours. I learned that the human body can endure much more than we give it credit for. Every soccer practice, broken bone, “Hell week”, and health problem I have ever experienced in my life doesn’t even come close to the physical pain I endured that day. The doctor came in later that evening and expressed his concerns. My liver and kidneys were failing and they were not able to reverse it at that point. I couldn’t receive any pain medication because of the Tylenol overdose. I began to have an allergic reaction to the Tylenol antidote running through my veins. I had nothing left in my stomach and was dry heaving for minutes at a time. If I was lucky a little bit of acid would come up giving me time to breathe in between. My friends were holding ice bags up to my ears to help the swelling go down. I remember looking at my hand. It was bright red and severely swollen. My body was burning but I was shaking as if I were lying naked in the middle of a snowstorm. I began to have a seizure. Every part of my body was convulsing. I never knew death personally until that moment. Never in my life have I been so afraid. In Sunday school they teach you about heaven and hell. They tell you that if you are a good person you’ll go to heaven. I was moments away from discovering the unknown and I was utterly terrified wondering if heaven even existed and if it did was I instead destined for hell. The doctor was preparing my family for the inevitable. I remember holding my mom’s hand as she begged for me to stay strong. I thought my heart broke in the ninth grade when the boy of my dreams kissed my best friend. I thought my heart broke when I was 11 when the Backstreet Boys broke up. I thought my heart broke the moment I found out my sister attempted suicide. I thought my heart broke when I saw my dad that night. But nothing compares to the moment I looked into my mother’s eyes and the reality of her daughter dying settled in. I know now what it’s like to feel your heart shatter into a million pieces. I never want to experience that again. I reached my limit. Do you hear that GOD never again, please.
It was the longest hour of my life. I remember begging the doctor to knock me out. I’ve heard that you can black out from being in so much pain but I never knew the truth to that phrase until that moment. The room began to grow black and the cries of my loved ones rang through my ears. Some of you might not be religious. Some of you might not believe in God. Maybe this is too personal to write on my creative writing blog. But that moment changed my life forever. The moment I begged God to give me another chance, to postpone the inevitable, because I am only 17 and every post I’ve written about death didn’t make sense until that moment. They say that in order to overcome your fears you must face them. The reality of it all is that we live everyday thinking there is a next. We say goodbye expecting a hello. We delay saying “I love you” because it just wasn’t the right moment. But you only have so many moments. They’re only so many good mornings and good nights. You only have so many days with those you love. Stop saying tomorrow. Tell your family you love them. Write a thank you card to your grandmother for the socks she gave you last Christmas. Ask that boy or girl you’ve been crushing on since September on a freaking date! Death is real and we can use it as a metaphor for our broken hearts and our dirty dishes. But death isn’t something to take lightly. We become too comfortable with the feeling of sadness that happiness seems foreign and out of place. We talk about suicide like it won’t happen. You are in charge of your own destiny. You might think I am taking this too seriously. Maybe I’m being too literal. Maybe I’m just being dramatic. But the fragility of life is something we often take for granted. And I guess this is my really awkward and confusing way of telling you that I love you because I do. Because a week ago I didn’t know if I would have the chance to tell you that. A week ago I didn’t know if I’d ever see the sun rise again. I didn’t know if I’d ever hear the rain patter against my window seal. I didn’t know if I’d ever get to experience what it’s like to fall in love or graduate high school. In that moment I wasn’t wishing I had more money or a new I phone. I was wishing I told him I loved him. I was wishing I told my dad I forgave him. I was wishing my sister could know that I was happy for her even though I don’t entirely agree with her decision. I was wishing my mom knew how much I love her and how grateful I am to be her daughter. In that moment all I wanted was for more moments.
So here’s my second chance. Here I am trying to be more open about my feelings. Here I am trying to be a better person. Here I am trying to be more positive, trying to be bolder, and trying to make something of this world. The truth is death is inevitable. It is a promise made to each of us at birth. But before that promise is kept, we want something to happen to us, whether it is the thrill of romance, the joy of raising a family, or the anguish of great loss. We all hope to experience something to make our lives meaningful. Life is short and we only have so many moments. Make them count.