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Page 23




I realized that my days left on the earth were extremely limited. Sure, Iíd heard all before- seen the doctors grim faces, the shaking heads, the covert words that spelled out a painful death in the near future. But now I believed it. Before I was invincible. So what if I had bouts where I couldnít breath and had to struggle to draw a breath? That didnít mean I was going to dieÖ

Now I came to the realization that it did mean that I was going to die.

I couldnít understand why the doctors hadnít diagnosed me with cystic fibrosis long before they did. Maybe they had and my parents and grandparents kept it a secret so as not to worry me. Maybe I knew it all along and it took me until I was sixteen to finally register it. Probably I had subconsciously blocked it out as something too horrible to truly comprehend.

My body was run down and beat up. I had been abusing the limited vitality that I had, and I went into the hospital nearly dead. My breathing was rough and erratic and after a week and a half of being shot up with medicine and IVs I wasnít doing any better. They had tried three different antibiotics on me to fight the infection that was clogging my lungs. None of them were doing the trick.

The nights seemed to be the worst. It is scary when you have no control over your own body. Iíd wake up in the middle of the night coughing up phlegm, barely able to breath. It feels like youíre taking in air through a straw. I donít mean a fat straw like youíd use with a milk shake. I mean a straw that you mix coffee with; the skinny ones with two holes. You have to fight just to hold on. Every ounce of energy goes into just breathing. You think that each breath you take might be your last, because youíre not sure if your lungs will allow you one more sip of life giving oxygen.

One night my lungs didnít allow me that one more breath. I woke up hacking so hard that I couldnít breath. I struggled for another gulp of air, but it didnít come and black spots formed before my eyes. I fell unconscious, back into my hospital bed, and I kept falling, further and further into an inky void, until I found myself sitting on my knees. Around me was complete darkness, yet I was illuminated as though a spotlight shone directly upon me.

A deeply calming and peaceful voice spoke to me. "Do you want to live or do you want to die?" Afterward, there was silence, as if the speaker were awaiting my response.

I stood up in the column of light and yelled as loud as I could. "I want to live! I want to live! I want to live!" When I came to, the nurses were gathered around me, and I found that I was yelling out loud.

For a yearís time, I had been praying to God every night that he would take my life. "I want to die, Lord. Please take me tonight," I would pray. "I hope I donít wake up in the morning. I donít want to." Finally he had answered my prayers, and had given me one last chance to change my mind. I had taken that chance. I honestly believe that if I had chosen the alternative that I would have died that night. I never would have woken up, but God gave me another opportunity, and I took the extension on life that he offered me.

What would I choose to do with my life? As time passed on I would do a lot of things Iíd be ashamed of, but still Iíd occasionally look back, and think about the time when I was given the choice to live or die, and Iíd wonder when I was going to get myself together and take a shot at redeeming myself -live some sort of respectable and honorable life. Oh, I was September Peterson, that was certain- and in the eyes of the world I might never be respectable, but mostly I just wanted to be able to respect myself.



VI

Drunken Disciples of the Love Shack


After Heatherís parents found out about our engagement they quickly shipped her off to school on the other side of the state; Washington State University. They hoped that


 
     
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