On March 28th, 2004 at exactly 4:20 am, I was abruptly awakened by a loud noise above me. As I checked the clock, the room became illuminated by bright green neon lights. With a sense that something was amiss, I promptly got out of bed and navigated through the dimly lit basement apartment. Upstairs, the lights were already switched on and voices filled with worry permeated the air. Without any hesitation, my heart raced as I sprinted up the stairs.
Upon opening the basement door, I witnessed my father and mother on the floor in tears, accompanied by a police officer. The memory remains vivid as my mother desperately pleaded, “not my baby, oh God no, not my baby!” This was the tragic night that marked the irreversible transformation of my life with the passing of my brother. Over the next three years, I spiraled down into despair and sought solace among others who also yearned for temporary respite from their own hardships.
Despite being surrounded by a crowd, I felt deeply lonely. I spent late nights in bed, overworked myself, and partied excessively. My spending was extravagant and I didn’t hesitate to skip work, relying on ramen noodles and PB&J sandwiches for food. I had a habit of getting involved with emotionally damaged individuals, either because I wanted to help them heal or because I craved someone who understood my own brokenness. The realization of my pregnancy made me finally see the negative impact of my choices.
The pregnancy served as a constant reminder that I now had the responsibility of taking care of someone who knew nothing about my past and mistakes. It motivated me to make significant changes in my life, despite doubting my ability to handle this new situation alone. I was determined to prove to my loved ones that I could better myself. Turning 25 just before Valya’s birth made me realize that being a parent involved more challenging obstacles than I initially anticipated.
Over the past 5 years, I frequently contemplated being without her. Witnessing my friends’ plans to go out intensified my desire to be with them. Nonetheless, I consistently found myself at home, browsing through Facebook pictures of everyone else having an amazing time. They were accomplishing remarkable milestones such as graduating from college, securing lucrative employment, exploring the world, and pursuing their interests. However, everything took a turn last weekend on Labor Day 2012 – I made the choice to cease missing out. I joined my friends for an enjoyable camping night filled with drinking, game playing, and pure enjoyment.
Upon waking up the following day, I experienced a sense of my physical well-being slowly deteriorating from within. My recollection of the previous night was at best hazy. Later in the evening, a text message expressing concern for my condition arrived: “hope you’re feeling OK. I was pissed Chuck gave you those pills.” A deep sense of dread consumed me as I immediately contacted Chuck to inquire about what he had given me the previous night. His response shook me to my core: “A perk 30 and 3 Adderall’s, you were wrecked!” Disturbed by this revelation, I urgently reached out to a friend named Tara to vent my frustration: “Jesus Tara, I’ve known people who have died from mixing less than that; I am going to kill him!” As memories of that eventful night continued replaying in my mind, it became clear that it had potentially threatened my life, similar to Keith’s tragic fate. The memory of Keith’s demise lingered as my father reminded me how he had perished in a car accident due to intoxication while my mother clutched onto a photograph of Keith on the ground repeating agonizing words: “Not my baby, not my little boy.” This night also brought Valya into focus as it astounded me how something so dreadful could possibly lead to something extraordinary. Overwhelmed by news about the pills, seeking solace and comfort in Valya’s embrace became paramount as we settled into her bed and contemplation took hold.
What if that night eight years ago had never occurred, and what if I had perished while camping that night? Tears filled my eyes as I pondered, “What am I engaging in?” Reflecting on my foolishness, I had endangered my role as a mother to Valya, who is the utmost priority in my existence. Valya’s significance compelled me to transform my life for the better following Keith’s passing, and now I constantly remind myself of this fact. There is a purpose behind every event, and she serves as my motivation.