Because this is a true story that changed my life and has made me a completely different person the names have been changed but everything is true.
When my alarm went off the morning of April 16, 2007; I knew what the day was. It was the one month anniversary of my friend’s death. Lacy Smith had died a month before in a car accident with a few of my friend’s during spring break. Going to her funeral changed everyone in a way I can’t even begin to explain. As I got out of bed to turn off the alarm I saw that I had gotten a text message a few minutes before, from a friend of mine named Kelly. In the message she asked me if I knew anything about Lauren Peterson overdosing on drugs and being in the hospital. I didn’t think much of it then, just that it was probably a rumor of some sort. I called my best friend, Kristen Peterson who is Lauren’s sister on my way to school that morning just to see if what Kelly had said was true. I got her voicemail and I left a message telling her what I heard and to call me back as soon as she could. I got through first period at school and I hadn’t heard anything about Lauren yet. It was when I was in the hall walking to second period that I knew the rumor was actually factual. I saw Nathaniel in the hallway and I knew that if anyone would know the truth he would because he was very close with Lauren’s family like I was. I asked him about what I had heard from Kelly and he told me that it was true. Lauren Peterson was in the hospital because of an accidental drug overdose. I didn’t really know what to think when I heard this, I was just worried about Kristen and how she was handling it.
I decided that I should try to make it through school the rest of the day before I did anything and made my way to my next class which was pre calculus. When I got there I sat next to my friend Trevor and he asked me what was wrong because I looked upset. I told him what was going on with Lauren and he said that he was very sorry and couldn’t believe it himself. While I was talking to him a girl named Leah started asking questions about Lauren and I told her I didn’t want to talk about it. She kept going on and on about what had happened though and telling the other people in my class about Lauren’s drug overdose. Part of what she was saying wasn’t true and clearly a rumor. I think that was when I lost it. I kept telling Leah to stop talking about it and that she had no idea what she was talking about. Then she started yelling at me and I just lost it. That’s how I get when I’m really emotional and angry about something. I turn into a completely different person. A person I don’t know. Like other moments I’ve had in my life similar to this one, I can never really remember exactly what was said but I know I slammed my books on the table and walked out of that class. I went to the counseling center so that I could call my mom and tell her to sign me out of school, because I couldn’t stand being there when I was this emotional. After I called her I began to walk out and saw my leadership teacher who had Kristen in one of her classes also. She asked me if I had heard the news and I told her yes that was why I was leaving, and that I wouldn’t be in class that day. She told me to tell the family that they were in her prayers, but I wasn’t really thinking about anything at this point. I just wanted to see Kristen and make sure her family was okay. It seems stupid now when I look back on it. I was being selfish and dumb because of course they weren’t okay, Lauren was dying.
As I drove home from school I called my friend Dianna who was not only a very good friend to Lacy and I, but who I also worked with. I told her what was going on and she asked me if I wanted her to come over, so that I didn’t have to be alone at my house. I said yes and she met me at my house about twenty minutes later. At this point I had texted Trista, she was a hairstylist I worked with and also very close to the Peterson family. Trust had known the Peterson's for a long time and the type of person that you could really count on, if a tragedy were to occur. While I waited for a response from her Dianna and I talked in my room. It was odd really. While this whole tragedy was happening we were mostly talking about Lacy. We knew it had been a month since we had gotten the news that Lacy had died in a car accident. I don’t think anyone ever got over it. You would have to know Lacy to understand. It was strange I thought that on her one month I found out Lauren was dying in the hospital. It was almost as if pain and tragedy couldn’t leave my friends, classmates, and me alone for even a few weeks. Dianna and I wondered how the family was handling it at the hospital, when I got a phone call from Trista. She said she had just left the hospital and that it wasn’t looking very good. Lauren was in ICU and had been there for two days. I asked her if she thought I should go and visit the family. She said she thought it was a good idea and gave me directions on how to get to the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. When I got off the phone with her, I told Dianna that I was going to go up there and I asked her if she wanted to go too. She said that she didn’t’ think she could handle being there and she had to go to class in a few hours anyways. She then left my house with tears in her eyes like I did. It was like every time I saw one of my friends now it seemed like it could be the last time, and that didn’t scare me like it would most people. It just made me more sad and depressed than I already was. It was almost as if by this point I was expecting tragedy. Diana told me to call her when I had more news about Lauren or if I needed anything, and told me that she loved me and drove off. I then called Kristen and I told her that I was going up to the hospital and asked her if she needed anything. She told me she couldn’t think of anything, except for maybe some bottled water. I grabbed some water from my refrigerator and an extra shirt and sweatshirt from my closet, because I didn’t know if she had had a chance to go home and change in the last few days that Lauren was at the hospital.
I got in my car and began my drive to Dallas. I listened to my Staind music. I don’t know why I remember this or feel like it’s worth mentioning. I just know that I listened to it, and the lyrics seemed to relax me and make me feel as if everything was going to be okay. I got to the hospital and after I parked my car in the visitor lot, I proceeded to the ICU unit. I kept getting lost in that hospital. I remember how frustrated I was, it was like the nurses and staff around didn’t understand what was happening. I kept asking how to get to the ICU unit and that my friend was up there dying. They just told me what general direction to go in like it was no big deal. I wanted to yell at them too. I guess to work in a hospital you get used to people dying though. As I got in the elevator I remembered the last time I was in an ICU unit. It was about five years ago, and my baby sister was there lying in a hospital bed, just like I imagined Lauren was doing now. My sister had diabetes, and we didn’t find out until it was almost too late. She lived though, and to this day I am infinitely grateful for that. I stepped out of the elevator and no one was around, I just saw two doors in front of me that led to the ICU waiting room. I was nervous before going in. I didn’t know what or who to expect once I stepped in there. I got over it however, and if there is a place in this world where pain and time are somehow joined together and infinite, that place would be an ICU waiting room. You could feel the presence of tragedy from the moment you walked in there. I saw some people on the left side of the room that were obviously there for another patient. Then I saw Kristen lying down on two chairs on the right side of the room. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days, and had no makeup on. It made my eyes water just to see her like that, I knew to a certain extent what she felt like, and I knew from experience what it feels like when something happens to you and there is no way for you or anyone else for that matter to make it better. I decided not to wake her, and sat down next to her patiently just looking around and watching the other people in the room. Dennis then walked in from the hallway. He was Kristen and Lauren’s step father. He smiled at me and asked me if I wanted to see Lauren. I told him yes, but I wanted to wait for Kristen and he said that he understood.
While Kristen was asleep I began to think about what she had told me about Lauren, and what I had seen myself. I knew that Lauren had a daughter when she was sixteen, and the baby was almost a year old now. I knew that she didn’t live with her mom anymore and that she had been experimenting with drugs for a while now. I know a lot of people that “experiment” with drugs, and nothing like this has ever happened to any of them, and I am glad for that. When I found out the drug complications she had were from the Dallas drug, “cheese” I was almost confused. I didn’t know a lot about this drug, only that it involved heroin and cold medicine. Sometime after Lauren’s death, one of my best friends admitted to me that he had taken the drug a couple of times and how it had scared him. The thought of him dying too when he told me this made me cry, because I came to realize that even though he knew what had happened to Lauren, he still chose to take the chance. Kristen was still sleeping, I figured she hadn’t been getting much sleep lately so I just sat there and day dreamed. That’s all I did for the next few days; day dream. I never really felt awake or really asleep just like I was in another world that I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried. I remembered when Lauren tried out for soccer and Kristen and I were already on the team. It was before she was pregnant with the baby and her and Kristen hadn’t been getting along. I remembered that they fought a lot, but I didn’t think much of it then. Now when I look back on it, I wish I could have stopped Kristen at times and told her to be more patient with Lauren; but that’s the thing about time, you can’t go back, nor fight it. I began getting messages while I was in the hospital from people asking about Lauren, I think I ignored most of them. I don’t think most of the people really cared, they had their own opinion about Lauren and were only being polite, but all the same I didn’t want to talk to any of them. Some people may say that knowing a lot of people who do drugs doesn’t say too much about you, but those people are wrong. Drugs or no drugs, they are just people all the same. They have feelings and dreams just like people who choose not to abuse drugs, and that doesn’t make them bad people.
I noticed Kristen beginning to wake up, and I stopped day dreaming. She looked exhausted, and at about that time two of Lauren’s old friends came in the waiting room. Jan and Linda walked up to me and Kristen. They had been very close to Lauren when they were younger, and I knew Lauren was very important to them. They asked how Kristen was doing, and it was a stupid question even though you would be stupid not to ask it. Kristen asked us if we wanted to see Lauren and we did. She took us to the nurse’s station and we got stickers to put on our shirts saying that we were visitors. We headed out of the waiting room and down the opposite hall I came through when I first entered the ICU floor. We went through the double doors and then to a room on the right. We immediately saw Lauren lying in the bed, and about two nurses in the room were walking around with clipboards. We went to the side of Lauren’s bed, and just watched the machine pumping air through her chest for her. She looked beautiful. She had about a dozen tubes and needles in her body, but she looked just how I had remembered her the last time I saw her. She and Kristen were almost identical. Kristen told us that we could hold her hand and talk to her. I didn’t touch her the first time I was in the room with her, but I listened to them talk to her. Everyone was crying. It’s not something you try to hide when you’re in a hospital though, it’s just a reoccurring event that everyone does. We stayed in there with her for a while and nurses came in and out talking to each other. One of the nurses asked us if we had any questions, Jan may have said yes but I can’t remember. I know I didn’t have any questions, I just wanted answers. We stayed in there with Lauren a long time, and then we left and went back to the waiting room. Jan and Linda said goodbye but I chose to stay at the hospital. I didn’t care if anyone wanted me there anymore I just wanted to help. That’s how I am with my friends. I’m very protective and I try to help everyone, but it always backfires on me because I can never seem to help myself. Kristen and I talked in the waiting room for a long time and I talked to a few of her family members too. We went and visited Lauren about two more times. Each time was the same, yet it felt different. We would go in there, cry, talk, cry, talk to Lauren; and then leave. A few of Lauren’s friends that she worked with came up to see her, but they were only there for about an hour. I stayed at the hospital with Kristen until about midnight. I don’t know how she did it, but she managed to hold her family together while her sister was laying in that ICU room on life support.
I drove home and I called my boyfriend at the time, Mason. I told him what was happening and I almost felt bad for him. Mason and I started dating just a week before Lacy died, and now another tragedy was happening. I didn’t like him having to see me that emotional. I was also a different person since Lacy died, and I was becoming more of this new person in the last few days of Lauren’s life. I am still this person today, but I am learning to live with my new self. I miss who I used to be, and I know I will never get that person back, and that’s what scares me. Knowing that in a year the death of two friends, the abandonment of my father, one of my brothers, my sister, and my entire family on my dad’s side had destroyed the person I spent my entire life becoming. I’m another person now. Not different or better, just a completely new person. A lot of the time when I meet new people, I wish they could know the old me. I miss her. I stayed on the phone with Mason the whole way back to Mansfield so I wouldn’t cry so much. When I got home I told my mom what had been going on and I went in my room to go to sleep. I didn’t get much sleep but I did get some, and when I woke up in the morning I still felt like I was in that place where you’re not asleep or awake, your body and mind are just a sort of blurred dream. I drove to school and went to my classes but I barely made it through half the day when I came back home. I was too emotional at school with everyone’s questions and all of the rumors I was hearing. When I got home I packed up some necessities to take to Kristen and drove myself to the hospital.
When I got to the hospital, it was just like the day before; same people in the waiting room, same feelings, and same tragedy. Kristen and I went in Lauren’s room and stayed with her for about four or five hours. It didn’t seem like that at the time. We just sat there and Kristen got in the bed with her, while I sat on the other side to hold Lauren’s hand. We listened to the beeps from the machines that were keeping her alive and tears streamed down our faces. I remember how worn out my body felt that week from crying. I was exhausted and couldn’t eat anything during that time. Lauren’s best friends came into the room while we were in there. Jeremy and Ella. It was the first time I had me them but I like them a lot. They cared about Lauren and that was all that mattered at this point. We stayed in there with them for a long time and then Kristen and Lauren’s dad came into the room. He told us that the doctors had announced Lauren brain dead, and were going to take her off of the life support at about one in the morning. Everyone cried more like it was a shock, but we already knew it was going to happen. We left the room for Lauren’s parents to spend time with her. Then we just sat in the waiting room and talked to each other, mostly about Lauren, but about other things too. At about ten p.m. Lauren’s parents came in and said that we needed to start saying goodbye to Lauren. Jeremy, Ella and I went in first. When we got in I had already spent so much time in that room that I didn’t want to be in there anymore. I stood there a little while and tears rolled down my stained cheeks. Then I walked over and kissed Lauren on the forehead and said goodbye. That was one of the most difficult moments of my life. I hugged Jeremy and Ella and walked out of that room and back into the waiting room. I went to the area where the Peterson's family was and picked up my bag. I gave Kristen a hug and told her to call me as soon as she got home. Then her mom came and hugged me. She was also my boss; I didn’t mention it earlier because it’s not what’s important. I was glad that she hugged me, because I know that my presence at the hospital helped the family in some way, and that was all the satisfaction I needed. As I left the hospital at about midnight, I cried the whole way walking to my car. I couldn’t help it, it just happened.
I’ve come to realize with time, why Lauren’s death seemed so different from Lacy’s. When Lacy died, I was at my friend Samantha's house with Kristen and about five other people. We had just gotten back from a party and everyone was drunk. Samantha and her mom were arguing about something. I remember going in Samantha's room to check on her and she was crying, so I sat next to her to comfort her while her mom talked to us. About ten minutes later she got a phone call from Joey who was in Corpus Christi with about a thousand other kids for spring break. He said that Crislyn, Lily, and Lacy had been in a car accident. He told us Lacy had been ejected out of the car and died, and that Crislyn and Lily were in the ICU in very critical condition. This was a horrible tragedy, but it was easier than Lauren’s. When we found out Lacy died we all had each other in the same place, and our last memories of her were good ones. Lauren’s death was a death in progress that I had to watch. Seeing someone die and hearing the news about someone dying, are two entirely different feelings of loss. To actually watch it happen is unexplainable. To know that you’re saying goodbye to someone and ten minutes later they are going to start unplugging machines and that person is going to die, is unfathomable. It makes life seem like a game you play with. That’s how I’ve viewed life ever since my tragedies started happening about a year and a half ago. Life is a game. All of your choices are just moves you have to make, that determine if you are going to win or lose. Maybe to some people life is more than a game; I used to be one of these people. Some people might say I’ve given up on the good things in life, but I think I’ve just become smarter about it. As I drove home I realized other things. How I treated all of my relationships like they were games I could end whenever I wanted to. How I never let myself get close to either of my parents. How I felt more like a family when I was with complete strangers at a party, than I did at my own home. They were all just characteristics of me that welded me into the person I have become.
When I went back to school the next day, I ignored most people. I dreaded the questions about Lauren. I visited Kristen a few times, and every time I did, she was just upstairs laying in her bed. She was never really asleep, but never awake either. She was in the daydream place. I wanted her to be the friend of mine that was always energetic and looking at the positive side of life. She is the only real Christian friend I have, and I’m glad she is that way. She was more of a guide than anything. She would tell me when I did something wrong, something my parents probably should have done but didn’t. I wanted this person back like I wanted myself back and Lauren, and Lacy. I couldn’t have these people back though, they were gone. Kristen and I might still be here but I know she isn’t the same and neither am I.
The memorial for Lauren was beautiful. It was at a Baptist church in a Texas town right by where I lived. The family had everyone wear white and I was glad for it. I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would, I guess I had got all of that done in the hospital. I was glad when Kristen was able to stand up in front of all those people and talk about her sister. That’s a strength I will never know. She has the kind of heart that I envy, and can only dream of having someday.
At the service the preacher talked about the good qualities of Lauren instead of reflecting on the bad ones that turned her to the drugs. I was glad for that, no one needed to hear the bad things. All that mattered was that she was no longer in pain. If there is a Heaven, I hope her and Lacy are there. I can’t imagine a better place. If life is a game, I like to think somehow they have won, like they beat all of us to the finish line. That sense of closure would make me feel better, but I’ll never know where they are so I can only hope that if life really is a game, it has a good finale.