28 Elul 5777 / Tuesday, September 19, 2017 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
 
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Sparkle's Story     Sparkle's Story

The power of life becomes all too clear when I sort through my 49-page hospital records that describe the moments just before and after my return to this earth...

 



It took me over 21 years to discover that I am not in charge of how I die. My mission is to take the reins of how I live, with no escapes.

 

To comprehend how I came to the point of trying to take my life, it helps to know that “escape” and I go way back to my childhood days in suburban Maryland. My parents immigrated to the US from Israel, and unfortunately their marriage was writhingly turbulent. Essentially I had two options, flight or fight. I chose the former, preferring to escape.

 

Since my parents did not allow me to go too far, I created a whole new universe in my head. Boy was it beautiful! The roads in were paved in glitter and everyone loved one another. Even animals and humans lived in song. It was not just imaginary, I built it too. Alone in the basement, I delved into my mom’s stash of arts and crafts, cutting and pasting rainbows of colors and textures as my happy bubble took the lead. In this happy place, my soul came alive. Fittingly, I named myself Sparkle. By 12th grade, even my English teacher called me Sparkle. Yet by the time graduation hit, reality came in with the ultimate blow, forcing me into pale and stale adulthood.

 

Refusing to go down, I would have rather died than give up my sparkle. By age 21, I already had a couple diagnoses, a number of psychiatric ward visits, and a series of medication treatments under my belt, but none of that could replace the anguish of losing my happy little world. I missed the bubbles and the rainbows, the sunshines and smiles. Surely it was more than that, because at the heart of it, I felt trapped. I was living someone else’s life. Forced to go to college, despite never quite feeling at home in the east coast, I felt like my only use as a daughter was to make my dad’s immigration worth his sacrifices. My mom and dad forfeited their own happiness all too often, in order for me and my brother to have a better life. Now I was just a bum daughter whose medical treatments infringed on my parent’s retirement funds. On top of it all, the world was forcing me to lose my Sparkle – but being Sparkle was the only thing that kept me alive! Eventually, you know the rest. I tried to kill myself to end the suffering. I was the only one who could rip off the bandage. Sometimes a tree grows stronger after losing a limb.  

 

My perfect suicide plan turned out to be an utter failure, and for that I say, Thank you Hashem!

 

It took hearing my psychiatrist back home telling me, point-blank, “You could have died,” for it to hit me. I could have died! But before realizing the calamity of it all, the fog had to clear. The haze lifted about a week after paramedics wheeled me out of my dorm. By then I was no longer sedated, and the doctors moved me from the intensive care unit into intermediate care unit.

 

The first memory I have is of my mom sitting by my left side working on another one of her needlepoint masterpieces. My mom pet my arm, and reminded me that she loved me with her soft voice and wet eyes. I missed her. With my hair matted into one massive dreadlock, my eyebrows growing into a bush, and bones now protruding in places that I never realized had bones, none of my externals mattered. The point was that I was alive, and present. Saving my life was no easy task either! Doctors had to pump the poisons out of my stomach. It got messy, with fluid seeping down into my lungs, leaving me with a horrid case of aspiration pneumonia.

 

The worst was being unable to breathe on my own. Without the steady flow of oxygen in my nostrils, who knows if I would be alive today? My story may have ended 11 years ago with no one to tell it. The irony was loud too. Before trying to end my life, I felt trapped but now here I was, with my hands pinned down by IV tubes, another set of tubes in nostrils holding my head at bay, and then straps on my ankles keeping my feet stuck to the bed railing on a spin cycle. This was trapped, and still it was not, because I was alive. I still had time to find my way.

 

Life slowed down after I left the hospital. I remember the time my mom took me to the sandwich shop in a nearby shopping center. I did not have an appetite yet, but I welcomed the car ride and chance to see people going about their lives. As I stood behind the glass counter with people chewing and chatting in my periphery, clarity struck me. I thought, “If a stranger walked up to me right now and offered me either a million dollars or the chance to breathe deeply again, there would be no question about it. I just wanted to breathe!”

 

Breath is life, and the power of life becomes all too clear when I sort through my 49-page hospital records that describe the moments before and after my return. Before, the doctors prepared my parents for the worst. They might need to send me to an acute care unit. No one could explain why I was so unresponsive and obtunded. As far as I know, I was not there. I cannot tell you where I was, but I have a feeling that my soul was put on hold and there was a battle for its fate. Thankfully I returned. Hashem gave me a second chance.

 

Life since my return has never been the same, and for that I am grateful! I finally realized that Hashem not only returned me to life, but to light! My job is to bring light with every breath. I also started taking better care of my body, mind, and soul. Doing so helps me incorporate my sparkle into this world, a dream come true! Today I am happy to be alive, cherishing my inhalations and exhalations, because I know that every breath is truly a blessing.





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