Losing the Life of a Stranger
For reasons entirely unknown, a young man took his last breath in front of me last night while I was holding the woman who killed him in my arms. A few seconds prior, he was a pedestrian. He was a name and a body crossing the street, just trying to get from one side to the other. And a few seconds prior, she too was a driver, a mother, a wife, just trying to get back home. Then she hit her brakes and a body hit her windshield, and he met the pavement.
I heard the sound of his body hit the car, and forces that were out of my control threw me out the door, across the street, and the next thing I knew I was watching a man fight for his life at my feet. My adrenaline was pumping so my senses were heightened, and I remember everything. The piece of skull sticking out of his forehead, the blood covering his face and coming out of his mouth, the missing finger, the flip-flops that were torn apart, even the pieces of hair stuck in the shattered windshield of the car that hit him.
It became my purpose at that point to clear the scene of anyone trying to get a look. I felt that it was my job to protect his fragile soul, and he didn’t need fearful energy filling his body in his last few breaths. Although quite honestly, I also was very afraid.
He was trying so hard not to cross over to the other side. His mangled hands were gripping and he was grunting through struggled breath, though the rest of his body was limp.
I wished desperately that my fourteen seasons worth of Grey’s Anatomy would give me some sort of medical knowledge to save this man, but not even ‘push one of epi’ would do it. Plus, I’m not entirely sure what ‘epi’ even is.
I wished I could shock his heart, wake him up, call his mother. Anything.
But then a woman fell into my arms. She quite literally fell into my arms when she got out of her car because she passed out. I helped keep her awake as we crossed the street, which I thought was ironic. Here we are walking along the same path that the sweet soul laying on the ground had taken only moments ago, except we got to keep our bodies at the other side. We stayed awake.
In a way, she was losing her life too though. Involuntary manslaughter. Killer. Murderer. We sat on the curb and all of the love in my body was being pulled out in a great magnetic force and given to her. Now that I’m thinking about it, I never did ask for her name.
We sat there and I held her and helped her breathe, we even held hands. I felt the desperate need to share the light and love in my body to help fill the dark and empty spaces growing in hers.
It’s a strange thing that happens during a tragic or emotionally jarring event. Sounds are muted, people move in slow motion, and time becomes irrelevant. The mind enters a different state where nothing else in the outside world even exists. The body balances between extraordinary presence and the yearning for distance.
I looked up to see a woman dressed in scrubs putting lap pads under the man’s head. There was something so stunning and graceful about her, and I knew that she was his angel. She brought pure, gentle love to the dying man. I hope that was the last thing he felt.
I remember everything about her too. When she crossed the street to come stand where I was after her job was complete, we looked into each others’ eyes and I literally saw God. My whole body filled with chills and all I could say was ‘thank you’. I never asked what her name was, either.
The sirens grew louder and eventually a swarm of paramedics surrounded the scene, but there was nothing left to do. His fragile body was now separate from his soul. The woman I was holding kept passing out. I held her up as she leaned all of her weight on me and I told her ‘I know this hurts. I know you didn’t mean for this to happen. I’m right here’. Her repeating ‘thank yous’ kept her conscious.
My job was coming to a close too, as the police officers needed to have a word. I was asked to leave. Actually, I don’t know if I was verbally asked to leave, but I knew it was my time to leave. I had given her all that I could as I held her in my arms to give her space to breathe, but it was my turn to go home and learn how to breathe again.
In the short amount of time since this happened, and in my own grieving, I have been continually searching for purpose. I have been trying to make sense of the fact that at the ripe age of 23, I have now seen two people die right in front of me; both total strangers. I was 16 when I first watched someone take their own life, a purposeful crossing from one side to the next. And this one now, seven years later, an accidental and confusing collision of life and death.
While I firmly believe that every human is worthy of living out their divine purpose and filling the world with their light, I don’t think that’s what this man died to tell me. Of course it’s true that there never seems to be enough time, and it’s true that you should hold the people you love close and tell them that you love them, but I also don’t think that’s what this man died to tell me. I think that his soul dispersed a million ways to tell different people different things, but he laid on the ground to say to me ‘Believe in trust. Believe in the way that all of these strangers have come to share their love with me. Believe in the way that you are surrendering and sharing space. Believe in all of the ways that we are connected but can’t understand at the surface; we’re all here exactly when we need to be. I’m going to let go now, and you should too. I love you’.
This line from The Kinks’ song Strangers keeps running through my head: “Strangers on this road we are on/we are not two we are one”.