When I was 17 years old, I saved a young man’s life. But I cannot explain to you how I knew what I needed to do to be there at the right moment to save him. I just knew. My brain works differently than most. Whether it is autism or something else, I just know I have always been “different”.
I struggled as a teenager for a lot of reasons. But I was smart, I managed to hold a part time job most of the time, and I had a crap Hyundai to drive. I only got into major trouble once during high school. I lied to my mom about sleeping over at a girlfriend’s house when instead a different group of us girls were hanging at a house of Navy boys renting in town. They were nuke students working at a facility away from the sub base. Uber smart. Nerdy cute. I digress.
It was totally innocent, I think we were all too geeky to get into any real trouble. We picked a movie to watch all together in the living room. The guys had been showing us around the small cape, telling us about its hauntings. Yeah, like ghosts. They told us about glasses of water being moved, doors being opened and closed, that kind of thing. Sounded fascinating, but I don’t think anyone was buying it. Except me. I kind of always kept an open mind about those kinds of things. Who am I to say something does or doesn’t exist? Besides, I had seen things before.
Anyways, I had forgotten to call my mom and tell her I had made it to my girlfriend’s house after work for the sleepover so Mom had gotten worried. Even more worried when she realized I had only been to this girl’s house once before and my mom couldn’t remember exactly which house it was. So by 11pm, my worried and pissed off mother was driving through the streets of the entire town looking for my car. And me.
After about an hour of searching, she found my car. I have no idea how, but this woman found my car on a street hardly ever traveled, miles from home. She wasted no time knocking on the door.
I had been upstairs with two of the boys talking about the ghost activity, one of the other boys had opened the front door as I was coming down the stairs. The look in my mother’s eyes was something otherworldly and I was terrified.
She followed me home and of course she made it clear that I was grounded for life and not to ever EVER EVER go back to that house or see those boys again. She didn’t care that “nothing happened”, this was the first major lie I had told and been caught in the middle of and there was no discussion.
About three weeks later, the day before Thanksgiving, I was at the public library after school. A rare exception to my punishment, but back then we didn’t have the internet for school projects. My mother had reluctantly allowed me to drive myself to school that day so that I could go downtown to the library before the long holiday weekend. I was told to be home by 5pm or else death. And I believed her.
I was wrapping up with my note cards and a flash went through my head of one of the Navy boys, Drew. I had never really exchanged so much as a word or two with Drew but I had heard he was the only one of the boys not going home for Thanksgiving. That thought made me sad, but I knew that there was nothing I could do. I gathered up my backpack and all of my papers and I set out to my car in the parking lot of the library. What happened next, there is no simple explanation.
I was already running late. I was due home at 5pm and my mother did not mince words. If I took the most direct route home I would probably make it with a moment or two to spare. But that’s not what happened. I started driving and I just didn’t go that way. I started driving in the opposite direction toward the Navy boys’ house. I felt like I had no choice, like I was numb or on autopilot. In my mind I was terrified of my mother’s response to every action I was taking at this point, but still I could not change course. Though I was scared of getting into trouble with my parents, I was at the same time very calm, my body felt relaxed.
I pulled up to the house where the boys lived and it appeared all dark and quiet. I went up to the door and knocked, rang the bell, and waited a few long moments. Every moment that passed I was assessing in my mind just how much more pissed my mother was going to be. No answer.
But I couldn’t leave. I just couldn’t. I felt I was connected to that space in that moment and I just could not leave.
I stepped back and looked for a light somewhere upstairs. Nothing. I walked around the side of the house. Nothing. I made my way to the back and a light in the upstairs bathroom caught my eye. I walked up onto the back deck leading to the kitchen slider. I banged on the glass and grabbed the handle and pulled as hard as I could to see if I could open it. Nothing. I stood still and pressed my ear against the glass listening for anything that would tell me if Drew was inside, if he was ok. Because now I knew there was nothing ok here even though I didn’t know why. Through the glass I could hear music. I banged even harder, I yanked on that door handle with all of my strength. Nothing.
Now I panicked. My heart was pounding and I felt time slipping away. I felt urgency and my entire body was shaking. I jumped back into my car and drove to a pay phone a half mile away and I called Drew’s number. Nothing. I drove back to the house and went next door to get a classmate that I knew was friends with one of the other boys. I told her I thought Drew was in the house and something was wrong. She quickly came with me and as we both walked up onto the back deck I showed her the light in the upstairs bathroom. I was telling her about the slider door being locked as I reached for it one more time in desperation – and it opened.
We ran into the house and flew up the stairs to find Drew on the bathroom floor unconscious. He had taken an entire bottle of sleeping pills. He was still breathing but his pulse was very weak. The other girl dialed 911 while I held Drew’s hand. EMS was quick to arrive. We were told Drew likely had only minutes left. He was lucky.
After Drew was taken by ambulance, I drove myself home. I was exhausted. My mother was bitterly angry and unwilling to listen to this experience that was pulling me apart inside. I didn’t blame her. Who could understand? How could I explain it? I was drowning in the enormity of the sequence of events. The exact calculations of so many events that made this one, singular outcome possible. It was all I could think of. Over and over.
I was most certainly grounded again. Punished for saving a life. That was so totally aggravating and confusing. Though the entire circumstance felt out of my hands from the very start to the very end. I begged and begged to go to the hospital to see Drew. To hold his hand. That is all I wanted to do. I just wanted to hold his hand one last time and tell him he is loved.
So I did what I had to do. I skipped school on Monday and went up to the hospital to see Drew. He was still in ICU so I lied and said I was his sister so that I could see him. He was still unresponsive. I sat beside him and I held his hand. I told him I was so grateful to be there in that moment because he was not supposed to leave then. I didn’t know why, but I just knew that was the truth.
As I left the ICU wing, walking down the long hospital corridor, a woman had gotten off of the elevator and was making her way toward the ICU. She looked so very tired and yet relieved at the same time. We were maybe thirty feet from each other, getting closer, when she just stared at me and said, “You are her.” She ran to me and threw her arms around me. “You saved my son.”
I froze. I could feel her warm hug and all of her emotions enveloping me, but I was suddenly breathless and rigid. Hours went by, days even, before I felt myself allow my body to soften and accept this woman’s embrace. It felt like an eternity in what I am sure lasted only a moment.
Drew’s mother and I talked for a little while. Their family was from Pennsylvania and she and Drew’s dad had been by Drew’s side all weekend. The hospital had only told the family that a young girl had found Drew. She asked me “how” so many times and I just didn’t know what to say. There were no answers. I just did what I did. And what I didn’t understand I just knew I had to trust was important. She told me that Drew’s brother had died the year before in a car accident. She couldn’t have survived losing another child.
I was able to see Drew one more time after he had recovered and before he was released from the hospital. It was awkward, but it felt right. We didn’t exchange any contact information and I have never heard from him or his family again. But they live in my heart forever.
I have learned to not question these events, or my feelings. If something is meant to be, so be it. We are all here for many, many reasons. Each day, each action causes a reaction that can have a lasting impact on another person. Make every action a loving one.
“What you experience on your journey depends greatly upon what you allow your eyes to see.” – Rachel Leslie Kenyon
[If you are experiencing feelings or thoughts of suicide, please know there are people standing at the ready to help you. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by clicking HERE or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) where you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. Remember, whether you can feel it in your darkest moments, you are loved, so very loved. *I* LOVE YOU.]