Being Beautiful: Not an angel, but my angel

She came to me, not like an angel, but as my angel, her embrace just as I remember. In her light blue sequined sweater that matched her eyes, arms enfolding me as they have done a thousand times, she held me tightly and whispered in my ear, "It is not your time, baby. Keep fighting."

It was not another dream. I have had so many dreams since she left me five years ago, but this was different. Three weeks ago I went into the hospital for what was to be routine lumbar surgery. Instead, it would prove to be an extraordinary life-changing event. The morning began with us driving through the snow from Vicksburg toward Jackson, marveling at the beauty of the snow-covered canopy of old oaks and magnolias, something Southerners rarely see.

I waited patiently for the nurse to call my name, James Creel, the first name my mama gave me. It seemed as strange then as it always had before, because I am “David.” The only time I heard the two names James David together was in grade school or when my daddy was mad at me. The last things I remember before falling asleep were saying, "I love you" to my Chris, the cold air in the operating room, and the bright lights overhead.

Fast forward a few hours to when I woke up to the sound of the anesthesiologist calling my name, "David, I need you to wake up now.” I kept saying, "I am awake. I am awake." No one heard me. Then my private hell began.I heard all the sounds around me: feet shuffling, voices growing concerned, but I was completely paralyzed. It took me a few moments to grasp the severity of the situation. I was frozen, completely still and trapped alive inside my motionless body, a straightjacket of flesh and uncooperative muscles from which I could not escape. Imagine the terror of hearing the voices of the doctors reviewing my chart, brainstorming aloud to each other, franticly lifting my eyelids and commanding me with increasing intensity: “Wake up. Squeeze my hand.”

I could hear the loud sounds of the ventilator, my breathing tube filling my lungs with air. I wondered if I was going to die, if these were my last memories. I could yell and scream on the inside, but nobody heard me. I heard the voice of a woman say, "Oh, he is not going to wake up!" Then a man's voice said, "Sometimes it just happens. It is rare, but like 1 percent just don't wake up."

I knew at that moment it was up to God and me to save my life. I spent the next few hours tirelessly instructing my fingers to move, demanding my toes to wiggle, begging my eyelids to open, but nothing. I began to talk to the only person who could hear my thoughts, and I prayed to God. It was in that moment that my mama came to me. She held me. Then she pushed me away, and as I watched her face fade into the darkness, I knew she was telling me not to give up.

For hours to come, I used my mind to force my lifeless body to come alive again. Slowly, very slowly over two days and nights in intensive care, I regained movement in my feet, then my hands. The moment I could blink my eyes and squeeze my Chris's hand, I knew I was going to use everything inside me to wake up again.

Apparently, the anesthesia paralyzed me completely for eight agonizing hours before it slowly began to fade. I am almost fully recovered from back surgery, and although it will take a long time to recover from the nightmare I went through, I have been looking for the lessons in the miracle of being given a second chance. The best lesson is the assurance that our loved ones are always with us. Thank you, Mama, for coming to me and for letting me return to my life here.

No doubt you wanted to keep me with you as you always did. Letting go must have been hard for a mama to do.

Contact David at [email protected].