I’m in bed on the second story of my home in San Antonio, Texas. Airplanes fly by frequently, since I live a couple miles from the airport.
Today I was leaving for Chicago, Illinois to visit family for the holidays. I hadn’t seen them in several months, so I was looking forward to the comfort of familial familiarity.
The sun rose, and as I was scrolling through Instagram (my daily routine), I heard the whir of a plane get closer at a rapid pace.
In a split second, the plane crashed through the outside wall of my home, sending broken plaster and rubble flying, and my vision went black.
I remember immense, sharp pain for perhaps three seconds.
I remember feeling like I was Dorothy in a hurricane.
I remember wishing for just a few more minutes on Earth to see my family and friends again.
I remember the feeling of dying.
I exited my body, as most do when they die, and everything was black. No consciousness to be had.
After emergency respondents got to the scene, squelched the fire, moved the ruble, and retrieved my body, thus began the long process of identifying me.
I was torn apart. My face a ghastly ghoul (or so they said) and my body dismembered.
Through DNA though, they discovered I was Christina Gayton, a 20-year-old college student and freelance artist.
The family was notified.
They wanted an open casket.
My face was reconstructed based on a former image.
It looked ok.
At my wake, my father Bill cried, which is an anomaly. My mother Maureen did not cry, which is also an anomaly. I presume she was still in shock or perhaps her river had run dry.
Upon the opening of my casket, the room was pin-drop silent.
Family and friends stared and averted their gaze in alternation. The longer they stared though, the more my body began to look like the person I lived as.
My face had its pale glow, my medium-brown hair fell beside my face, my lips turned up at the sides, my jaw clenched, and my eyes blinked to nudge away the dust.
My eyes scanned the room as familiar, friendly faces stared back in horror. Disbelief? Excitement? (I like to think they were excited.)
My dad put his hand over his mouth, as if about to hurl, and stumbled out the room.
My sister Melissa backed up to the wall, nervously fidgeting her hands.
My mom, disabled, sitting in a chair and unable to leave, exclaimed “Christina?!” in the way she did when watching a ridiculous episode of Law and Order.
My rise was not elegant in the way someone Holy would arise. My rise was not terrifyingly uncertain in the way zombies arise from graves.
I arose uncertain. Craned my neck upwards. I couldn’t lift my body or feel my appendages.
I just felt the world again. And myself in it.
Like a newborn, I was baffled, my eyes stumbling around the room, looking for something sturdy to catch my balance on. My mouth quivered, trying to speak, but all I uttered were inconsequential syllables.
These inconsequential syllables, though soft, seemed to echo throughout the room.
At this point, extended relatives were on their phones, calling who knows what: paramedics, the police, an exorcist.
I wanted to explain to them that I wasn’t a demon. At least I didn’t identify that way. But as I continued my paltry attempts to speak, blood started dribbling out of my barely open orifice.
I sputtered more than I spoke.
I said, “Don’t worry, I’m me, I’m just happy to see you all.”
I said that in my head.
Out loud, it was received as “dnn ah, mmm, mm aha ss yy aa.”
Through appearance, it was received as “BLOOD. BLOOD AND A HALF DEAD HUMAN.”
If I had any energy to cry in that moment, I would have bawled.
Being so close to my family, almost able to say “I love you,” almost able to say “I missed you,” almost able to say “Please hug me one more time,” I was in more pain than I felt when a plane pierced through my home and body to kill me.
Seeing their faces of pain and horror, while feeling my face of pain and longing, I regretted my resurgence into life.
I’d rather die in a split second, never to see my loved ones faces again, than to face this utter misery of lackluster goodbyes.