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The Day I Befriended Death
I MET HIM when I was two and just six months shy of turning three years old that year.
When I was small, had unevenly shaped bangs, and the mindset of an average oblivious toddler.
I met him on a Monday, April 6th 2004. At a playground somewhere in Van Nuys, my hometown, when the weather was cool and slightly breezy (perfect weather to die in.) My father was working night shifts then, in order to take care of my sister and I while my mother left to work a standard nine to five job. We usually spent the days either at home or at my grandmas. This day, however, my father had gotten tired of sheltering us indoors and decided to take us outside.
We spent the entire day at a crowded playground where the air was filled with the screams and cries of children with healthy lungs. Where it reeked of sweat, dirt and for some reason baby wipes. My sister and I, were very excited then and indeed very social. We ran until our chubby thighs rang, until our entire heads became wet and sticky. With smiles on our faces that widened to the point where our cheeks stung, as when ran into our mothers arms when she eventually joined us after work.
A picture perfect moment, the world stood still for a while as if it was preparing for an earthquake, for the world to end. For my parent’s world to crumble into pieces.
The expression, 'Anything can happen' was the best way to describe these next few seconds. In a second, my father had left to the bathroom, and the second after that I made my way towards the swing set, unaware of the young boy being swung carelessly by his father. The second after that, my mother had become occupied by the lost of my sisters shoes and by the next second, I had met him. Felt his presence drown me in complete darkness, surround me with the utter feelings of misery and loneliness. The boy's feet making contact with my small, soft stomach was Death's first hello.
The boys weight and the aggressiveness of the swing had impacted my fall to be so severe, I blacked out. My breathing had slowed down, even stopped for a minute.
If i was older, I would have gotten up, been utterly embarrassed by the fact that I had let a young boy on a swing hit me. That I was so incompetent to notice his body coming towards me.
But I wasn’t older, I was two and experiencing a near death experience.
I heard the sounds of my mother's heavy footsteps approaching and the silence that engulfed the entire playground whole. My body was gasping for air and shutting down at my mother’s fingertips.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean too. Dad, I didn't mean too." The young boy proclaimed with a breaking voice that was accompanied by a runny nose and sobbing.
"She's fine buddy, don't worry she'll be fine," His father quickly reassured him, "I'm going to call 911 right now."
"Tell them she's not breathing, I can't feel her breathing." She cried out as she positioned my body onto her lap, and clutched her grip around me.
"It was an accident, I swear I couldn't see her," the man hushed in a frantic tone.
A lady had made her through the crowd, her dark blonde hair covered her face as she rushed towards my mom and I. She reeked of fresh linen and rubbing alcohol.
"I'm a nurse, I can help her." She spoke to my mother in an assertive enough tone that made my mother trust her enough to me pass me onto her.
She held me for awhile until she spoke, "Hey honey, it's going to be alright and mama bear don't you worry she's breathing but it's growing weak. We need the paramedics."
"Then where's the f***ing paramedics?" my mother aimed towards the young boy's father in a high, aggressive manner.
The nurse grabbed at her, "You need to calm down, everything will be okay. I'll call the hospital and order a helicopter.”
I didn't know yet that the friendly nurse at the playground and helicopter ride to UCLA Medical center was going to be the reason that I am alive today. I didn't know yet that I would met Death again. I didn't know it yet, but this day would eventually mark the date that Death and I had become friends bonded at the hip.
When the helicopter approached, it landed in an isolated field that was covered in weeds and dead grass. My mother held my older sister Christine in her arms, as she, my father, and the nurse that held me ran towards it.
Without a word spoken or argued, they decided that my father would be the one to accompany me in the journey to the hospital. The men abroad instructed my father where to seat and how to fasten himself in, whilst attaching my tiny body into a stretcher. They proceeded to check my vital signs and in one quick second they noticed the symptoms of internal bleeding. That my tiny little heart was going to stop soon and they needed to prevent it from happening.
It took my father years to admit that if I had died then, he would've have jumped out of the helicopter. Years to admit fully to the fact that he had once thought of suicide and going through with it.
Upon arrival at UCLA Medical center, I was rushed into the intensive care unit. My father began to panic when they didn't allow him to join me forcing him to become the prisoner of my mother's and his own worry. The doctors that surrounded me where gentle with how they conducted their every movement. When they spoke to me, they used a sweet baby voice that calmed me when I began to feel sleepy. They didn't panic when my pulse was dropping and my heart was beginning to fail. I didn't either.
Many people who have experienced almost dying describe the face the death as peaceful and that it resembles a white beam of light at the end of a tunnel. To me, the face of death was alike the face of an old friend. A person who you've known for a long time before and are glad to see again, but for some reason, you're not supposed to meet them yet.
I felt this urgency to wake up, that it wasn't my time yet, and as quickly as this feeling came, my eyes widened. A doctor held a defibrillator to my chest the same second I had opened my eyes.
The electric shock stunned me and I somehow managed to yell out, "Mommy."
A nurse held my spoke and replied, "Good job waking up sweetie. You're mom is the another waiting for you. Are you ready to say hello?"
I shook my head yes as they transferred me into a regular, boring beige hospital room that reeked of the same scent the nurse stunk of. However, for some reason, it also smelled like burning rubber.
I spent two weeks recovering in a spacious white room that upon entrance was noticeable that it was cleaned with heavy amounts of bleach. I wasn't able to shower during this time causing my straight short pigtails and uneven bangs to bunch up in a cluster of knots (every mother's worst nightmare.) For me, these two weeks of doing nothing but laying in bed was heaven. To my parents, not being able take me home for two weeks was pure torture.
Years later, I've grown to accept my love-hate relationship with Death, as it's merely a tiny burden of living a life manifested on bad luck. I don't bother to visit him at all these days and that's probably the reason he keeps *falling in love with all my loved ones instead of me.
I've also grown to realize that Death is truly the only best friend I've ever made. He has been by my side through thick and thin and has created me to be the person I am today.
I always thought that my life had a purpose, That life itself had a purpose. That from the day your born, you're given a position and then universe begins to molds you in a way that suits your position, or fulfills your purpose. So when it's time for you die, you're life is well lived and you die with the feeling of content. So you die, with no fear of death. I lived with that idea, hell I even believed it like a normal sane person would until I learned that life doesn't quite work out that way.
Until I learned fourteen years later that life isn't already planned out for you, that life isn't molded by the universe but by others.
If that boy or his father had seen me walking toward the swing set, I wouldn't have nearly died. If my mother had held me close by her side, I wouldn't have been transported to UCLA by helicopter. If those men hadn't raced each other on the freeway that night, my cousin wouldn't be stuck in a coma for two years today. If my mother hadn't smoked cigarettes in her lifetime, she wouldn't have gotten breast cancer.
Life is merely enduring the consequences of your own and others actions. My life is evidence of that because it proves that bad things don't just happen, they occur because someone had done something to trigger my suffering.
So whenever your too scared to send that text, to say yes, or to move on, remember that whatever you choose to do, you're the one that has to endure the aftermath. Our actions have consequences, consequences that could be the trigger to an exiting bullet .
On the bright side, after fourteen long years, I've also learned to not care about bad or good days because we it comes down to it, it's just another day alive. I am thankful that I even have the ability to say that I've suffered through another day. You should be too. You should treat every day good or bad as a blessing and make sure to end the day with a deep breath of hope that you get to see tomorrow.
When my final day does approach, I know I won't be scared. I know that I'll be standing there with open arms awaiting the warm embrace of my old friend, Death. I know there won't be a helicopter or a friendly nurse to save me. I just hope that it isn't anytime soon.
(*falling in love is a term I use in order to avoid the phrase killing off because that's just harsh.)