There was a young woman there only about 19 or so, and her tall slender and waif like figure was being pounded on by a young and handsome tech. There was blood on her face and in her hair. Droplets of blood had splattered on her white mock turtleneck dress. It was very chaotic. The only sounds I could hear were the repetitive beeps from the EKG machine that also showed that she was flat lining. To break through the noise I heard the tech calling out as he paneled her chest, “Don’t you check out on me, don’t you check out on me!” He said this over and over again—his persistence was exacerbating.
Watching this gruesome scene was better than watching the movie Pulp Fiction, and I was hanging on the tech’s every cry. But I wasn’t allowed to stay here; something was pulling me upwards further through the ceiling until I was lost in clouds. Then a large voice called to me, and it was sort of scary. This was terrifying really because I knew I wasn’t in charge here. This large full masculine voice told me, “it’s time to go.”
My mind started racing and I couldn’t help but think, time to go where? Lighter and lighter my body began to feel like when you relax in the pool and you float to the top of the water. Up and up, higher and higher and a cool breeze started to wash over me. The air was blowing above me, below me, and all around me. This was the coolest sensation of my life, but it was frightening too. Up until that moment, I’d never been so scared. What about gravity? Why was I up here, and what’s with the big voice? More importantly, who’s the young girl? What’s going to happen to her? Is she going to be all right? I had to know what happens at the end of this drama.
So I thought, if the big voice can command me, then maybe it can answer me too. “What happened to the young woman on the table? Please,” I pleaded, “let me see her again.”
Somehow, my eyes zoomed back in on the morbid sight. Now instead of just watching it, I was critiquing it and analyzing its elements. “I have a dress just like that!” I thought, “and I have earrings like the ones the nurse is putting on her triage tray.”
I began to realize this girl looks a lot like me. Ivory skin, dark mahogany hair, very long legs, and she even had white pumps on that looked just like my favorite pumps—“No, Wait! This girl was me!” I thought to myself.
Then the doubt crept in, how could that be? If I am here, then how could I be there? I was in denial for such a long time it seemed. But I felt a tug again pulling me back away from the scene. Panic ensued while I was faced with my own limited mortality, this led me to a new definition of exacerbating fear.
Never before in my life had I considered myself to be a religious person, but yet I frantically began to pray. “Please God, Please God, Please listen to my prayer. I am so terrified Lord. I am not ready to die. I am only 19; my purpose here can’t be done yet. Oh please, dear Lord, don’t do this to my parents; they already lost my brother when he was 19, please don’t do this to them. My parents don’t deserve this!” I frantically and fearfully prayed. I was crying and the tone of my voice was cracking.
The light behind me got brighter and brighter till it was almost shining through me. I still was ascending and growing lighter and lighter. Drifting through space like this was sort of neat and for the first time in a month my migraine was gone. The sensations were not conveyed in our limited use of adage, and I felt more ethereal than I ever have in those few minutes, but my mind was rebelling this entire transitory state. Conflicted between my altered state and shear panic, I attempted to comfort myself. I told myself that this was a dream, or maybe even a nightmare and I could dig my heels into the bed and that would wake me up. However, I tried to do just that and there was nothing but air! Now I felt silly and uneasy because I had no bearing and I was essentially peddling an air bicycle.
At the summit of my fear, I saw my brother Ian who died many years before which started many more rounds of “Please God, Please…..” over and over again. Then Ian spoke to me briefly, or at least he looked like Ian. He told me, “Don’t be afraid, it’s not your time yet.”
With that I felt a jolt and it was much stronger than that. It felt like I had been thrown against a brick wall of pain. Never had I hurt so intensely that my entire body felt like a massive migraine. This intensity got me praying again. “Thank you for my life God, but you didn’t warn me it was going to hurt so much. Take me back, take me back.”
Wow, life is loud I thought. The beeps of that machine are deafening. Then I mainly saw two faces, the tech to my right and a nurse to my left. This image was unnerving because they looked just I had perceived them in my transitory state. The tech that had manned the panels gently caressed my hair and told me, “We thought we’d lost you.”
He sounded so sweet and sincere, like a lost love or something that the melancholy tone of his voice got me to start crying. My tears were salty and stung the wounds on my face especially near my eyes. Then he reassured me, “They’re going to take care of you. You’re going to be all right.”
It was so weird when he first stepped away because the staff was talking about me like I wasn’t even in the room. The nurse announced quite decidedly that she was going to have to clean me up, and then find out more about me. She approached me with a pair of tweezers and that freaked me out. At that moment, the tweezers might have well have been the size of my head. They looked enormous! The nurse slowly began to pick tiny pieces of glass out of the side of my face. It was a reflex reaction, but I started batting at her as if she were a fly. I did not want to have my face picked at in that moment. My small protest got her to call in another nurse to help her pick the pieces of glass out of my face. The only thing worse than one giant pair of tweezers was two. I batted my hands at them a few more times. Then one of the nurses asked me, “You want to be pretty again, don’t you?”
In my haste and frantic desperation I replied, “No, I don’t!” Believe me, even I couldn’t believe that combination of words came from my mouth. In their constant picking, they slowly found out whom my parents were and that they lived only about 20 minutes away. They asked me if I wanted them to call them, and of course I did, I was in a scary place. The workers were really annoying me by bombarding me with questions about everything. Some of it seemed kind of random, and through this dialogue I found out that I had a major car accident.
Finally, my dad arrived at the hospital. I was so glad to see my father in that awful place that made me hurt. Dad got to the end of the bed, and started talking to me. This was sort of awkward at the time because my dad worked all the time and we didn’t talk much in our everyday lives. So my first question to him was: “Where’s mom?”
My dad looked startled, or half scared really and replied, “Oh shit!” Then dad turned on his heel and disappeared.
This reaction was not at all what I was expecting as you can well imagine. I couldn’t help but feel like I’d done something wrong. The poor nurse that was attending me spent the next 45 minutes trying to reassure me. It was probably the weirdest and most awkward dialogue that dad and I ever had.
I was so happy to see my mother. Mommy would make this all right. My mother would stroke my hair, make me some soup, and then bust me out of this place. Right away, she had to tell me her tale of woe and how dad had left her standing on the porch holding her purse. Mom’s story went on to describe how our neighbor had offered to give her a ride himself in his squad car so she’d reach me faster. Of course, mom declined and assured him that dad would be back for her.
What happened after I saw my mother that night, I don’t remember. It was all a blur. I do remember waking up in my hospital room, and I was told I’d been there for quite a few days. This hospital room had been my home for a fortnight.
When I woke up that first eventful day in the hospital after the accident I felt lost and confused. As a professional model, I really wanted to know the condition of my face. The staff encouraged me to go and look for myself. So I groggily trotted off to the bathroom and in the mirror I didn’t see anything familiar. My face was so swollen that I looked like a statue of a fat Buddha with bloody cuts everywhere and blood red eyes. It was worse than a horror flick, yet it was me. I started to pass out. There was a nurse that brought me drinks, and she was the only one to have the wherewithal to come into the bathroom where I was. She caught me and helped me back to my hospital bed. I befriended her.
She was really on top of her game. Quickly, she learned I loved apple juice and coke, and made sure I had a steady supply. It was because of her that I learned what had happened to me, and that I had been clinically dead for just over three minutes. In fact, she provided me with the bulk of my companionship while I was in the hospital. I learned some things about her too, and she also did a little moonlighting by waitressing at a place near my house called the Blue Moon Café. She made my being in the hospital bearable.
Once I was waking up on my own, I would sit and wait all day for someone to come and visit me. The sitting and waiting was a horrible process. But some of my longtime friends came to see me, and one day my brother brought me an In-N-Out Burger. My nurse friend winked at him, and let him sneak it into me. It was the best burger I’d ever tasted.
My parents only came to see me twice. The second time they came to see me, I begged and pleaded to go home. I didn’t realize all the obstacles that would await me. Things like life without morphine, lack of a hospital bed, my boyfriend who never came to visit, and going to work in a retail store with a neck brace and bloodshot eyes had not occurred to me when I made this monumental request.
My modeling career was now blown, but I learned so many life lessons that have stayed with me. I learned that we never know, or have any control over when we die. I faced my mortality in those few short minutes of being dead. I now embrace my spirituality, and I believe in God’s divine power and intervention. I learned that when life was slipping away from me that my parents were the most important people in my life, and that in my final moments all my thoughts were of them.
Rewind back to a time before the accident. I was just getting off work, and I had plans to go out on a date with my boyfriend. That seemed like a very typical day for me. It was so sunny out that day that it was almost blinding.
Later at my parent’s house, my boyfriend and I were fighting. I don’t remember where this fight took place except that we did not fight actually in the house. For some reason, we were physically separated. I came to the house to find my boyfriend gone.
We lived over 30 miles apart. Dad had given him a ride home. I did not feel resolved in this fight. Being young, passionate, and angry I got into my car with the intent to chase him down—so I could tell him off. Zooming down the freeway, I was seeing red, but for a moment I knew my anger had gotten away with me. Right at the freeway interchange I decided this was not the best course of action. If I handled it just right, I could escape to the truck route parallel to the road I was on.
I thought to myself at the three forks in the freeway, “Not this time.” I had the realization it would probably not seem so bad tomorrow. We would talk about it then as the melodramatic Scarlet had done in Gone with the Wind.
After that moment, I blacked out. I could hear that something hit on the roof of my car. My car started to tumble and roll down the ravine. The motion felt like when one of my brothers would stuff me in our clothing dryer as a small child. Yet I could see nothing --- only sounds and darkness remained. I wasn’t too distressed because it just felt like I had gone to sleep, and I was caught between those minutes in between sleeping and rising.
Loud sirens were coming closer to me, but I didn’t see anything. I heard a woman talking, and she was carrying some sort of walkie-talkie. She was calling for an ambulance and a fire truck. Only cryptic messages were seeping through. Something about needing the Jaws of Life, and a conversation listing the local hospitals.
Slowly the voices began to fade, and I could rest in the darkness. I went to sleep, and it was a rest void of dreaming. When I awoke, there was light---only light.
Laurie Epps is a non-fiction author, essayist, and poet living in Anderson, South Carolina. She is the proud mother of three girls, and dreams of returning to Paris one day. To read more of Laurie's stories visit her blog at: firstname.lastname@example.org