It’s almost been one year that one man’s life was taken so another could be saved. On August 31, 2010 Justin Patrick Vehar was put to rest and my brother could finally stop resting. It’s a twisted and bittersweet feeling to know that someone died to save someone you love, but words could never express how grateful I am.
Sometimes I wonder if it was fate, if it was God’s way of saying, “Damn Christopher, you’ve made it this far, you deserve it.” Or was it just a coincidence? I don’t really know, but I like to think that things happen for a reason.
Exactly one week before Christopher went in for surgery, he asked me to come outside to watch him skateboard. He had his helmet, skate shoes, and board and went up and down the street for all of about two minutes. I took a picture of him and the smile across his face will never leave my mind. He was so happy just to be alive, but he was tired. Too tired to continue playing. A week later, on August 30th we received a call that there was a potential donor in place and we needed to get to the hospital. I don’t think I ever ran so fast in my life to my car and headed up to Primary Children’s Medical Center.
As they checked his vitals and drew his blood I stood next to his bed and held his hand. He finally got it. We made it. And no one thought this day would come.
The next morning we got the news that his donor was taken off life support and that surgery would start as soon as the organ was transported. They couldn’t tell us the donor’s name, but they did tell us how he died. He was a twenty-one year old male who had fallen off of his skateboard and hit his head. The impact from the fall caused his brain to bleed and swell so profusely that he would not recover. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. I found irony in the fact that a week previous Christopher was doing the exact same thing.
After a greuling and nerve-wrecking 12 hours of waiting for the surgery to end, he went to the ICU. And he made a full recovery.
Everyday I am reminded by the tattoo on my wrist of the day that Justin gave his life to save my brother’s. VIII-XXXI-MMX is a day I can never forget, and I’m sure Justin’s family won’t either.
At the end of this month we plan on writing a letter as a family to Justin’s parents. We want to show them pictures, tell them stories, let them know of the amazing impact this has had on all of our lives. I know they will be happy, but at the same time, they will once again mourn the death of their child. No one can bring him back, but a piece of him is still alive. My brother, for the rest of his life, will have Justin’s heart within him. I don’t think there is a greater gift you could give.
Everyone’s felt it; that moment you realize what a complete idiot you are, and you wonder how you could be so stupid. Well this isn’t my first go around, and it probably won’t be my last. I wish I could say it’s a lesson learned, but how many times do you have to become ashamed to be taught? Well, lesson taught this time. Hopefully learned.
I came up with a saying years ago to help me remember to be honest, have integrity, you know? “The truth may hurt but lies always damage.” How I wish I could just follow my own advice.
I lied. I continued to lie. It became a giganic web of lies that soon came crashing down. It wasn’t until I lost the one I loved I realized how wrong it was. That should have been another lesson too. Never take people for granted, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
If I could take it back, I would. I realize now that just because I was scared of the truth, I chose the easier, superficial, temporary route in lying. It was wrong. I wish you could see I recognize that, and I didn’t mean any harm. But lies hurt, and they DO harm, and it was stupid of me to forget that. I’m sorry, and I’m ashamed. But I can’t say I’m not deserving of it. I am.
Working in the hospital, I meet all the visitors and the patients, so I get to see the different relationships. Some are scary, some are bizarre, and some are absolutely beautiful. An elderly woman came in for behavior issues as well as dementia and she was being treated for a couple weeks. Her husband came to visit her every day, right at 6 pm. He never missed a day, and even once he came and hour early and waited until the very second he could see her. All her family, her husband included, felt that her health was worsening and that she could go at any time, but she stayed strong.
Every night I would see her husband and he would wink at me and smile and say he thought I was the “nice” receptionist. The last night I saw him, he had returned from his visit and he was frustrated with other staff members. I told him I was sorry and asked if there was anything I could do. He said “no dear, you are too good to me.” He winked and started to walk away. Before he left I said, “see ya tomorrow,” and he said “see ya.”
Three hours later his daughter found him lying on the floor in his home. He had had a heart attack and died. For him, tomorrow never came. We found out the next day when the patient’s family came to break the news. I damn near started to cry.
It’s amazing to me how a complete stranger can change your life. I don’t think I will ever forget him. He will be a constant reminder to be kind to all, because it might be your last chance. Life is too short, I’m just glad I made a positive impact on his life, even if it was miniscule. I hope I never take a day for granted. Rest in peace you sweet, sweet old man.
I am a firm believer that happiness is self-produced. I also believe that many of us, myself included, dwell on the sadness and hardships in life because it’s comfortable. But just because it’s comfortable doesn’t mean it’s good for you, or that it will never change. Life is what you make of it, and it’s much too short to spend it unhappy. One of my favorite quotes come from the movie Say Anything when Lloyd Dobler says to his pessimistic sister, “why can’t you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?” It’s something I always think of when I’m feeling hopeless. Anyway, here is a list of things I do to stay happy.
1. TAKE MEDS!!!! I have severe depression and without my meds, I’m a wreck. So this one is the most important to me.
2. Spoil yourself. A little retail therapy always makes me feel better knowing that I rewarded myself for hard work.
3. Get ready! Whenever I take the time to make myself look good, I instantly feel good. Knowing that you look great makes you feel great on the inside, and it’s always a confidence booster for me.
4. Don’t rely on other people to make you happy. Do things to make yourself happy!
5. Surround yourself with people who love you. Positive energy radiates, and the more you’re around good people, the happier you will be.
6. Exercise! I’ve always been an exercise nut, but this really is a big one. Exercise releases endorphins and gives your skin a natural radiant glow. It boosts energy, even if sometimes it feels like you’re worn out. And if you work out, you’ll have a better body, which will also make you feel good about yourself.
7. Push yourself to be creative. Whenever I feel like I need to get rid of some negative energy, I write or paint or take photos. On top of that, it makes me feel good to gain positive feedback for my work.
8. Do unto others. Giving to others always makes me smile. Whether it be a sincere compliment or a gift “just because,” it’s bound to make your day as well as someone elses.
9. Get your vitamin D! In the winter months I’m more irritable and moody because I’m lacking a vital vitamin in my regimen. Getting outside in the sun for a while, or even tanning a couple times a month will relax you and make you happier.
10. Think happy thoughts. Anytime you’re angry or are thinking of something negative, catch yourself and correct it with something positive. This comes in handy when you’re about to say a comeback, but instead you kill them with kindness.
For the first time in a while I am truly happy, and I know it’s because I use these tips everyday. I hope it helps! [:
I work in a very interesting hospital, and there is never a dull moment. Today I met a new patient, who I will call Jane Doe for HIPAA reasons. She just wanted to bring joy to the world before our first meeting, so we had “dance therapy by Jane.”
We turned on the radio and she commenced a series of interesting moves, including one that she called the “peach” which entailed spreading her legs and getting as low to the floor as possible. It was named that as we were listening to the song that goes, “I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree.” In which she replied, “they can shake my peach anyday, my peaches haven’t been shaken in years!” The staff and other patients couldn’t help but laugh, but she was being completely serious. It kind of made me sad, but I couldn’t help but laugh as well… it went on for 15 minutes. Jane had signs of a schizophrenic, couldn’t stay still, lost her train of thought easily and was easily triggered. For the majority of the morning she kept telling me how glad she was to hear Osama bin Laden had been killed, because he was her ex husband and he sodomized her over and over again.
When I came back from lunch with the other patients, she and I were standing by the nurses station when she started to talk about her new husband of 2 years. She told the nurse, “If anyone tried to take my husband away from me, I would kill them with my bare hands. If I had to shoot them with a shotgun or whatever, I don’t care, I’d do it.” She then looked at me and said, “ESPECIALLY YOU. I saw you looking at my husband…” I told her, “Jane, but I’ve never met your husband. I don’t even know who he is.” She held her hands up and pretended like she was choking someone, “I’ll kill you with my own hands.” She kept getting closer to me, so I started backing up. Finally the nurse said, “we’re not going to even think about hurting anyone Jane. Let’s talk about flowers.” Jane said, “flowers, I like flowers. I drew a picture of roses for my husband, just like the ones he planted in my backyard.” I walked away, I didn’t even know what to think.
Later on right as I was leaving my shift, a new young girl who was fairly pretty was taking over as the Tech. Jane said, “you have really nice boobs, are those plastic?” She laughed and said, “no they’re not plastic, haha.” “Well how come I can’t have boobs like yours, I don’t have any boobs. Do I need to get plastic surgery?” The tech said, “No you are beautiful the way you are Jane, if you want your boobs to look bigger then try a different bra.” Then they went on and on about what type of bra she should get, the color, the store, the price, if we could take her there and watch her try it on, etc. Then she said, “I don’t like girls like you, Miss America. I don’t like pretty girls, I want to kill all of them.”
Oh Jane Doe, you certainly are a character.
Pull up to the stop light
Thinkin’ ‘bout that last night
Wish it never happened, but it did.
We stayed out all night drinkin’
Wish I knew what I was thinkin’
Never should have trusted you again.
Because what happened next
Is just a blur
And though I cannot remember
The scars and pain won’t go away
Because I am bruised
I am broken
Words can never be unspoken
You’ll never take my dignity
‘Cause I’m still me.
and I take a drive because the streets are paved with a fresh rain and the birds may be chirping but the sun isn’t out yet. It’s the quiet calm that I need to try to get you out of my head. I drive aimlessly looking for somewhere to go, but not needing anywhere to go… and then it hits me. That’s exactly what I needed to think with you. I am always constantly looking for what I can do, where I can go, what I can be for you, when in reality I don’t need to be anything but myself.
I hate that you bring your floozy girls around my work and you show them off like they’re an accessory you just purchased. That’s all they are to you, an accessory. I hate that you pretend we are friends when in reality you know I don’t want to talk to you and I’m constantly reminding you that you’re a shitty friend. You try to make me smile by saying, “Hey, I was reading my journal from back in the day and I just had to tell you how obsessed I was with you.” Really? I don’t even care anymore. You may have cared about me then but you sure as hell don’t care about me now. Unlike your insecure self, I value my friendships. I don’t keep friends that are only there half the time and might screw me over now and then, that is not a friend to me. You are not a friend to me. Seventeen years of your bullshit and I can finally say that I don’t want you in my life because you treat me like I am disposable. My true friends know I’m worth more than that, and I’m a great fucking friend that would be there for anyone. Sadly, you aren’t me, and I’m done being there for you because when I needed you most, you just walked away.
I hope you enjoy fucking every girl that has a decent face. I hope you like being with the ‘in’ crowd of your sober friends. I hope going to the gym twice a day and taking supplements fills the emptiness in your heart. But most of all, I hope someday you will realize what a great friend you lost. And maybe, you will finally apologize for your wrong doing. Not just to me, but to everyone. Because you’ve crushed us all at one point or another.
I feel that a good majority of Americans, and probably people from other countries, are miseducated when it comes to what happened on September 11, 2001. Let me give you the basics.
The attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon were by 19 hijackers and 1 pilot. These people were members of al-Quada, a group that originally was formed to fight against the Soviet Union when they invaded Afghanistan. They later became a rapid response team against governments in the Middle East, and thereafter became a group of extremists led by Osama bin Laden. During the Soviet invasion, the United States and Britain provided funding for this group.
Later on the tides had turned as the U.S. supported Israel and added fuel to the fire in the Muslim/Jewish war. Supporting the Jews because they were the rightful owners of the land did not make Muslim people happy. They claim to be victims of wretched crimes by the Jewish people that took over their land after World War II with authorization from the United Nations. Osama bin Laden wrote in his “Letter to America” in 2002 that the U.S. has attacked his people numerous times by ordering and overseeing Middle Eastern governments in controlling this extremist group. Bin Laden claims that these attacks are not justified, as Muslims are the rightful owners of the land which is rich in “wealth,” or in other words oil. They were unhappy that these governments, largely influenced by the United States, had given in to Jewish desires and “handed them most of Palestine.” Economically, they were also angry because the U.S. had been “stealing” their oil by purchasing it at a ridiculously low price.
If you read his 2002 letter, it brings to light the corruption and sad reality of our government. We control many governments, and we allow our allies to obtain Weapons of Mass Destruction, just not our enemies.
The September 11 plot was presented in 1996 when Bin Laden wrote a fatwa explaining his reasons for resenting America. In 1998 the United States attacked Bin Laden’s military base which may have been a trigger to go forward with his plan. Also in 1998 the Director of the CIA informed President Clinton of al-Quaeda’s intent to attack. In 1999 al-Quaeda began rounding up a crew to hijack the planes in the name of Allah (Islam’s God.) From 1997 on, there has been evidence showing that the CIA had knowledge of these attacks from multiple sources including foreign governments, media, and Bin Laden’s fatwa.
Bin Laden and al-Quada claimed that the 3,000 American casualties were nothing compared to the 1.5 million deaths from American forces in the Middle East. Osama recorded a video claiming that his actions were those of revenge, as the United States had been attacking the people of Islam for years. He declared a “holy war” on the U.S. in 1998… how did the CIA miss that?
This interest sparked me after having a conversation with my boss Waleed at work. He is from Jordan, and knows a different side to the 9/11 attacks. He told me that the Muslim people are peaceful, and that al-Quada, the Taliban, and rebels have infected our media and created a stereotype for all Muslim people. Mahmoud my other boss used to be angry if we played Matisyahu, a Jewish reggae artist from Israel, at our work claiming that “his people have killed my family and are continuing to kill my people.” I never really understood the situation until I researched it.
Our government never ceases to amaze me with the amount of ignorance and corruption it has. We think we’re all high and mighty and unstoppable, but that’s because we attack anyone who goes against us. The media controls what we hear, and hearing that we do horrible things to people in multiple countries isn’t what our government wants us to know, so we are kept at a safe distance and lied to over and over until they are forced to give us answers.
I remember the day, a decade ago, when for some reason I decided to wake up early. I had a small TV in my room with a built in VHS player. School wasn’t until 9:05, and I had nothing better to do, so I watched the news. At ten years old, you might think that is strange, but something urged me to flip the switch.
Terrifying news flooded every station of terrorist attacks in New York. Hijacked planes, killed pilots, injured passengers, bombs, and hopelessness. My heart sank in my chest as I repeatedly watched the planes crash into the World Trade Centers. It just so happened that my Dad went on a plane that morning.
Frantically I run to my Mom, I tell her to come in my room and look at the news. My cries indicated this was no joke, and when she saw what she did, she couldn’t be scared. “Dad will be alright, we will call him right now, he is ok i’m sure.”
We call, no answer.
Call again, no answer.
“Well he’s probably still in flight and I’m sure that when he lands he will call us back. Go get ready for school.”
School was the last thing on my mind.
We went to school and I remember sitting in my 5th grade classroom staring at the TV. It’s surprising that they let children watch such a horrific event, but it’s all anyone could talk about. We had a class talk and decided to write out our feelings. I wrote a poem.
Mom took me and Frog out of school, he had broken his foot. Soon after we left, school was canceled for security reasons. Dad had called and had no idea about the attacks until he was forced to land in Denver, Colorado. I was grateful it wasn’t his plane that was taken, but I knew how the loved ones of those who were taken felt.
I will never forget that day. It blares vividly in my mind. Every minute, every small detail, I can’t forget.
There’s a pill to make you happy
lift your spirits when you’re low
a pill to make you forget
a pill to make you slow
a pill to make you thinner
a pill to make you grow
a pill to make you invincible
a pill to make you GO
I’ll fix my life through medicine
let the chemicals fix me
a pill to make me shut up
a pill to make me see
one more pill is all I need
to let myself be free
but when that one is not enough
I think i’ll just take three
three turns into four
and four into eight
eight into many more
and many more to fate
a pill to make you painless
a pill to make you fly
a pill to make you fall asleep
three pills to help you die
How strange it is to see
The things that change with age
As the distance between you and me
Shows a light that seems to fade
As lonely as a mountain’s crest
I lay here every night
The rapid beat within my chest
Is now so faint and light
What once was, may be no more
Only time will tell
The victim of a lonely heart
Must have been the one that fell
how does the faint line of a border’s cross
define the love of two
divide, separate, cut off
meanings you never want to feel
the idea of becoming one never lasts
when you’re not there
one wants the future, one lives the future
one wants the change, one stays the same
age, class, status, sex
roles we play in growing up
roles we claim to hate
roles we cannot separate from
never again will I be the first to say “I love you,”
because I’m not sure I will ever mean it again
to have everything destroyed right before your eyes
is more painful than any physical harm.
to have your heart broken, no,
ripped out, stepped on, torn apart, and thrown away
is enough to never want love again.
to fall farther than the one you love is a big mistake
the safest choice is to either never love at all,
or to let them fall far enough that they can’t get up.
you lay your head to the ground
the pavement starts to blur
you try to take a look around
but your mind begins to stir
it’s not until you see a light
blinding and blaring all around
that you begin to lose your fight
and sight turns into sound
as your body lay still
and your soul slips away
your family’s eyes begin to spill
with tears throughout the day
august thirty first
your shell was alive but your soul was gone
it was time to heal, time to move on
for although it was a tragic surprise
you brought joy to other’s lives
by giving the ultimate gift of life
through them you will always be survived.
At five years old you had a heart that beat for anyone but yourself. You treated everyone as a treasured gem that you only longed to make into a beautiful, perfectly cut rock. The way you shaped people to realize that life is about love, and family, and living is something that cannot be taught. You truly were made to be a teacher and an example for everyone who ever met you.
I was only seven and I didn’t really know what a typical childhood was like, but I knew a lot about love and hope and faith. I may not have known how to live without cares and be free, but I was happy knowing you were with me. My best friend, my brother, all I cared about was that you got to do everything I did, even if that meant I had to tote around your oxygen tank wherever we went.
You lay in the hospital bed and I hear beeping and buzzing and doctors standing all around. Dad held me in his arms and leaned over to let me give you a kiss. “Chelsea, give Frog a kiss, and tell him you love him.” His eyes were rolled back and his face was pale but I kissed him and told him I loved him and I didn’t understand why. We sat in the waiting room and my Mom cried while my Dad held us both. I knew he was going to go. This time he wasn’t lucky. This time it was the end.
I can only imagine what that wait felt like for my parents, not knowing whether or not your child is going to live. I’m sure every time the hand on the clock moved a minute it felt like hours. I can’t remember really what happened after that, my memory is a blur, but this is what I know.
Christopher was pronounced dead by one doctor. He had had a stroke after surgery that left him brain damaged and physically broken. They figured that even if they could revive him, he would be a vegetable and his quality of life would not be very great. Another doctor protested, and continued CPR and shocking him. Two minutes. He layed there for two minutes through gruesome compressions and shocks and he came back. The news the doctors told my parents was not at all what they expected, and at first they were ecstatic. He was alive, but he was not well.
As my Mom tells the story, my brother told her something that day that will always stay with her. “I saw him Mom. I saw Heavenly Father. I told him I wasn’t ready to go, that I wanted to stay here with you. He let me come back.”
When a five year old child tells you something like that, it’s hard to take in. He had chosen to stay here, and maybe it’s not reality, but it’s definitely something that has kept my faith. After that they induced him into a coma so he could heal.
From that day forward, he was different. His memory lacked, he could barely remember things before the stroke. His body was temporarily paralyzed and he had to re-learn how to walk, go to the bathroom, eat, everything. To this day his left hand, which he wrote with, is still mostly paralyzed. He is legally blind. He can see colors and shadows and faint objects, but if you bring him into a house he’s never been to before, he runs into everything. He has psychological issues, extreme anger and won’t reason well. And at five years old, all he wanted to do was be normal. But he knew that he never would be again. Eventually, he was just glad that he was alive.
So I tell you this not for sympathy, but to hopefully change how you view life. It is more precious than anything you can buy, anything you could hope for. Life, and a healthy one at that, is all you should ever want. I look around and see friends who whine about not being able to make rent. My family has struggled for 18 years paying for a child whose net worth is over $4,000,000. This isn’t my point though.. cherish the ones you love, because you never know when they will be gone. My brother has crusaded through nearly 100 surgeries in his life, and although his stroke changed him, his perseverance and determination haven’t left him. He reminds me everyday that no matter what problems I may have, or worries that consume me, I still have him and I still have life. Having to say goodbye was probably one of the best lessons he could have taught me. And although I wish others never had to experience that, in a way I do, because then they might start living.