by Jen Cravens
Sausalito, California, USA
I remember waking up in the emergency room with a tube being shoved down my throat. Disoriented, confused and terrified, I had no idea where I was. The last I remember was stepping into a hotel elevator, quite drunk after drinking four beers at a party. From what I could piece together, I had passed out, had three seizures, went into a coma, and my heart stopped. I woke up right after the emergency room team got it beating again. The official diagnosis was an allergic reaction to alcohol.
When I was stable, they put me on the ward with the terminally ill patients and the drug overdoses. The physical trauma I’d experienced combined with the sight of my parents’ tear-stained faces had left me utterly bereft. Just when I thought I could go no lower, the young doctor who had led the emergency room team stopped by to tell me that it disgusted him to see someone so young, with so much potential, on his table. I’m sure he meant well, a sort of medical tough love, but the effect was devastating.
By this time it was 4:00 a.m. I was alone in my room when a nurse walked in, humming softly to herself. She was big and motherly. When she saw the tears running down my face, she said in a sweet southern voice, “What’s wrong, sugar?”
That was all the prompting I needed. I started sobbing, telling her the whole story. I told her how stupid I felt and what a horrible person I was for hurting everyone I loved by nearly dying, just because I drank some stupid beer. She put her cool hand against my forehead and shushed me, stroking my face and arm until my sobs subsided.
“Sugar,” she said, “I’ve got a little daughter at home. She’ll be 11 next week and I can’t think of anything more wonderful than if she turned out as sweet and nice and smart and pretty as you.”
I looked up at her kind face in disbelief. “You can’t mean that,” I croaked. “You want her to end up like me? In a hospital room, a complete wreck?”
She smiled. “Yes, I do. You just made a mistake, sweetheart. We all do.”
A serious look crossed her face. “Now, the most important thing you can do is forgive yourself. We helped keep your body alive, but you’ve got to help keep your soul alive, and you can only do that with forgiveness.”
The truth of her words went into me so deeply, healing me so profoundly, that all I could do was silently return her intense gaze.
“You hear me, child?” She asked quietly, her voice kind and sweet.
“Yes,” I replied softly. “I do.”
I never knew her name, but wherever my Angel of Mercy is, I send her my love and thanks.