Just Breathe – Mellissa Cole

The message of this personal essay by Mellissa serves as a helpful reminder to all of us at the moment: just breathe. Enjoy.

Just Breathe

In the morning hours, eleven years ago, my world was changed. I thought I was dreaming; I could hear the faint sound of a ringing phone that I could not find. I frantically searched until I woke to realize it was next to me on my bed. 

Dazed, I said, “Hello.”

On the other end of the line was a familiar voice. One I knew that I recognized, but from where? She was uncontrollably crying as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. 

She said, “Keith is hurt. He was at a party and fell off a balcony. He is in Winchester Medical Center ICU. Be prepared because he is in a coma and cannot talk to you.” 

That’s when it dawned on me that it was my boyfriend’s mother. She was the one telling me this terrible news and, as a result, changing my life forever.

After I got the phone call, I drove to the hospital with a terrible feeling inside me, one that I could not shake. I could feel death creeping up on me, right next to me in the smallness of my car, as if the air around me was getting thinner. 

I said aloud, “Pull yourself together; you have to get through this and drive safely.” 

As I entered the building, I wiped the tears from my eyes long enough to ask what room he occupied.

The nurse that helped me asked, “Are you family?” 

  I responded with a sad “No.” 

She gently touched my shoulder and began to say, “I’m sorry, honey, but I can’t allow you to go back there.”

They had stopped me from seeing him, prevented me from getting rid of that awful feeling of losing someone that I cared for dearly. While I waited on one of  his family members to arrive, I leaned against the hard, cold concrete wall and the fear of death reigned over me. 

My head was spinning with lots of questions: Would he be okay?  Is this just a small bump in the road, or is death here to take its toll?  How could this be, when only a week ago we were in Baltimore, visiting his family? I can still remember that it was a breezy summer day at the harbor, seeming like a storm was brewing in the distance…

He had said, “Mellissa, thank you for driving me to see my mom. It has been years, and I just feel like I need to see her.” 

After walking around the harbor for a while, we met his loud mother and loving sister. They were on his case about his reckless and irresponsible lifestyle. All his late nights of drug use and alcohol abuse were more damaging than I realized. I could not understand why they were so upset; I figured all young people were a part of these reckless behaviors. 

His mother said, “Keith, you’re a grown man, and you need to stop all of this partying and get your life together.”  I thought nothing of the conversation because all families worry. As a matter of fact, it went in one ear and out the other.

I can remember his sister said, “You are going to end up hurt if you do not change.”

I thought nothing of the conversation because all families worry.  As a matter of fact, it went in one ear and out the other. I did not realize those words would come to haunt me forever. 

Just weeks before the accident, life was carefree, and nothing could go wrong. We went out to every party that was happening and had the time of our lives, because why not? We were both young; I was 22 years old and living the best life I could. I never thought about bad situations happening, just about what fun I could have next, never realizing that terrible accidents do happen, nor the danger that came with the company I kept. They were all doing more drugs than I even knew existed. I was naive about the terrible dangers around me, utterly oblivious to situations of overdose, or unfortunate accidents. At that time, I was in a fantasy land of how good life could be not knowing that death was breathing down the neck of someone so close to me. 

As I walked into his small dark room, I was aware of the smell of sanitation and the sound of all the machines beeping endlessly. I can remember he looked pale and brittle with tubes all around his face. They said that he was going to be handicapped and would never be the same again. In a matter of one night’s sleep, life was extremely different. I had grown so much in just a moment.

I remember the nurse saying, “It is okay to be scared. Talk to him. He can hear you.”  

About a month after the accident, he was out and doing the best he could with his new lifestyle. Even though we were no longer in a relationship, I kept up with his family to check on his wellbeing, but I decided that I wanted my life to change. Although I was not into the same crazy situations he found himself in, I was with him while he engaged in these immature actions. It was time to make some much-needed changes to the people around me. 

The next day, I was on the phone with his stepmom when I realized that I wanted more out of life. It was not until I heard her words that this became clear to me.

She said, “Mellissa you are young, and you need to live your life without all of these unnecessary problems.”

That’s the day I decided that life is too short not to live every day to the fullest and to love with all I have. I could not continue being unhappy; although life was fun, I was not truly content. In recent years, I had overcome my biggest fear. Death was no longer on my doorstep, my dreams no longer haunted me, and I did not feel afraid to fall asleep anymore. Life was back to normal, or so I thought it was.

Three years later, I’m laid panicked in a hospital bed smelling that same smell of sanitation and hearing the machines beeping endlessly while I give birth to my beautiful, chunky daughter. She has tons of dark curly hair and bright brown eyes. As happy as I am to have such an amazing gift from life, I am so scared. All those emotions come rushing back. My mind is all over the place with questions: Will she be okay? Can I manage to keep her safe from life’s dangers? Here she lies, innocent to all the fears and bad situations around her. How can something so virtuous be so chilling? I want these feelings to disappear, and I want to love without fear. But as she sleeps in her bed, I can feel it all over again. 

I figured out that the harder I love someone, the worse the fear of absence becomes. But as time goes by, I slowly start to feel alive again. When I lay down each night, I take a deep breath and remember to just breathe.

Mellissa Cole is currently pursuing a degree in nursing. This was her first time writing a piece to be published and she enjoyed it very much.

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