For this Thanksgiving day in the U.S., I take the time to thank someone I’ve never met, someone without whom nothing of the past 17 years would have been possible.
Dear Angel –
That’s your name, right? That was the name you had in the police report, according to the young officer who spoke with my mother.
I am the girl to whom you gave CPR through a car window the summer of 1997. I had made a left turn when it wasn’t my turn, and was t-boned by another car. You were one of the cars behind me, according to the police report, and worked in one of the many nursing homes in the bootheel of Missouri.
I was in a coma for two months after that accident, but when I woke up and began piecing it together, mom told me about you. She said that according to the report, you didn’t have a last name, and you didn’t stick around after the medics arrived, so the police couldn’t ask you any more questions. They just had your first name, “Angel.”
I wonder about you. Are you still alive? How hard must it have been to give me CPR through a broken car window? Did it hurt your arms? Did you get blood on your mouth? My face was cut – a plastic surgeon stitched me up so that you can’t even see it anymore. What did you do afterwards? Did you tell your family?
I made it. Thanks to you. The ambulance was a long time in coming, from what I understand, but you kept oxygen going to my brain. Thanks to you. I lived, and am now a grown woman with a husband and a baby on the way. Thanks to you. I finished school, two degrees and (try to) help homeless people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Thanks to you.
I started crying when mom first told me about you, for I felt the fragile string that connected me to life – your breath, your time, your effort, your hope – all of which were totally unearned. I said, “How can I thank her? What do I do?” She told me to “Pay it forward,” which was the first time I’d heard that expression.
I hope that I have, and even if I haven’t, thanks to you, I have the rest of my life to try.