Today I am 30 years dead.
No, I am not making a joke about turning 30 years old, as I was already 5 years old the day I died.
Let me explain.
It was March 28, 1986, Good Friday and the family and I were on our way to Grandma’s house for Good Friday dinner and coloring eggs. I sat in the third row of the brown station wagon, driver’s side, next to my older sister. My younger sister and brother sat in the second row with Mom and Dad, obviously, in front.
I fell asleep on the long drive just after my siblings and I ‘Care Bear Stared’ cars from driving too closely to the back bumper of the car. At some point the 5-point neon orange harness got uncomfortable to turn around in so the fun ended and I closed my eyes.
It was the intersection of Richards Grove Road and Route 32 the truck ran a red and T-boned our tiny car. I was asleep at the time, thumb in mouth and same hand covering half my face out of habit.
The side window of the car had imploded into the car and shattered itself across my face with a force that pushed my left eye, under the eyelid, back into my head and aligned with my left ear. I was told that it looked like someone had sprayed my face with sparkles when they found me unconscious and still buckled in the back row of the car, as no bleeding had begun when my Daddy came to unbuckle me. Little did he know, that I was long gone, and already dead.
I died on impact. I went from dreams about Care Bear Cousins to a completely new place I could not have imagined. I was weightless, calm, warm and fearless. I felt as though I was at Home; the most familiar and safe place I knew and yet nothing around me was familiar.
There was a voice.
It was not an audible voice like you or I hear on a day-to-day basis, but more of an innate tone for which my ears were not necessary. I turned to the voice instantly with a desire to put a face to the voice.
A light. It was a light brighter than any lightning, explosion or sunburst I have ever seen. It didn’t hurt my eyes or make me want to look away but instead made me want to walk towards it. I did.
As I spoke back to this gentleman, he asked me if I wanted to stay with Him or go Home.
It was at this moment I realized I was in a word different from the one I fell asleep in an hour before. I started to hear commotion and my gaze went downward. I saw my tiny little 5-year old body lying on a stretcher along the side of a moving ambulance. I saw an EMT sitting in a chair while taking vitals and I saw the back of my Daddy’s head as he rested it on his folded arms against my side. There was a sheet or blanket of some kind covering my face and my father’s shoulders shaking, and his fist hitting the gurney caught my attention. I had never seen Daddy cry before.
I looked back towards the light and said, “I want to go Home.”
It was in the instant following that statement that I found my Daddy’s hand in mine and felt his breath and tears on my skin.
Then, there was Pain. There was pain along my entire body, in my eye, in my face. My head was pounding and I kept trying to lift my hand to take whatever was on my face, off. I wanted nothing more than to rub the ‘sand’ out of my eyes.
My Dad kept my hands at my side and I started to cry. Now I was scared. Now was in pain.
I must have passed out at this point because my next memory is waking up from my first surgery. There were bandages covering ½ my face, and they smelled. They smelled like cotton gauze, bacitracin and blood. I could not see out of my left eye and the bandage was tucked under my bottom lip in the most uncomfortable way.
I had a frontal compressed fracture of the skull, broken nose and an eye they thought would have to be removed. Dad signed the papers to remove it immediately following the accident and returned to his prayer group. The doctors went in to remove the eye and as if Gods hand was present it moved directly back into its original place; 20:20 vision.
I was 5. I had just turned 5. Having a 4 year-old myself now I cannot imagine what my parents felt when this happened to our family. My near death experiences change me. Not just because I have come back from death but because of everything I had to face growing up as a result of the accident.
I was bullied. I was ridiculed. I had multiple plastic, reconstructive surgeries for many years that followed to include one just after the millennial New Year to reconstruct my forehead.
As a child, I wore a hockey helmet to prevent my skull from caving back in after them pulled 50 pieces of skull bone out of my brain due to the initial injury of the accident. It was the Spring after the accident (about a year later) that I decided I would stop trying to make friends and stay inside at recess. I sat in a hot pink bean bag chain in the book corner of my kindergarten class and played alone. While alone, I sang to myself. I don’t remember what I sang, but only that singing seemed to excuse me from hear the names the children called me; Monster, Scar Face, Ugly.
My teacher heard me singing and somehow I ended up agreeing to sing in the talent show coming up in a few weeks. More terrified to say no and disappoint her, then I was to sing, I caved and started making plans for my first performance.
I sang Dumb Dog from Annie, with a good friend dressed as the dog and swaying to the beat as I sang, I looked at the cracks in the hardwood floor on the stage to my elementary school stage. I mumbled most of the song, but belted the crap out of the bridge when the time came.
I felt a warmth come over my body, I felt safe. I felt Home again.
The moment the audience applauded, I remember looking up for the first time and feeling accepted for the first time since the accident. I was no longer being made fun of by my classmates, and I was instead being praised by more than just my family. I found a safe place and never wanted to leave.
Although I had found a safe place I will not lie to you and tell you that life was easy from that point. I faced long battles of depression, insecurity, debated suicide, suffered from anxiety and put myself in terrible situations that resulted in more emotional and physical trauma. I suffered a lot, but always found a place of safety on stage.
I often wondered why I was given a second chance at life when so many others are only given one shot and I try my best to live every day understanding that everything I have been through has only been part of the journey.
I just keep singing. That is who I am and who I know I was meant to be. I have never know in what capacity this would be or in what type of music. But today, 30 years Dead, I find myself given the opportunity to sing in our church’s Good Friday Service, which I have never been asked to do.
I cannot help but to feel as though this is my journey; to give back to the bright light and voice that gave my life back to me…not just on the Spring afternoon in March of 1986, but on Good Friday long ago, at Calvary.