It was the end of summer, and the Backstreet Boys had just finished recording their album. Now they had returned to the United States for some vacation time. While the other guys had just wanted to hang around in Florida, Brian and Kevin had decided to fly back to their home state of Kentucky. Brian brought his fiancée, Leighanne, with him, and Kevin brought his wife, Kristin. The four of them had flown to Kentucky to stay for a week before going back to their homes. In Kentucky, Brian and Leighanne stayed at Brian’s parents’ house, while Kevin and Kristin stayed with Kevin’s mother.
One afternoon, Kristin and Leighanne decided to go shopping together. Brian and Kevin didn’t want to go, so they opted to do something else, just the two of them. It was Kevin’s idea. Brian didn’t know what Kevin had in mind, but he would soon find out.
“Bri, I want to go out to the old camp,” Kevin said that morning.
“What? You mean, the old summer camp your dad used to run?” Brian asked. Kevin nodded.
“I just thought it might be fun. I haven’t been back there in years. Mom said it has been abandoned. No one is living there anymore,” Kevin said. “That means we can do whatever we want.”
“Cool,” Brian said. “Let’s go swimming, it’s hot out.”
“Ok,” Kevin said, nodding. They packed a small bag with their swim trunks and some food and set out for the old camp, which was about forty-five minutes away from Lexington.
Once they got there, Kevin was haunted my many memories of the good old days, when he was just a kid, and his father was still alive. Kevin and Brian walked across the property to the main cabin, which was near the lake.
“Whew, it’s hot,” Kevin murmured, wiping his forehead. “I’m jumping in the lake right now.” He grabbed his trunks out of the bag he was carrying and put them on in a corner of the cabin. Brian also put his trunks on. “Ok, let’s go,” said Kevin anxiously. Brian nodded eagerly and they started out to the lake. Suddenly, Brian heard a phone ringing from inside the cabin. He sighed.
“That must be one of our cell phones,” he said, hurrying back into the cabin. Kevin followed. “It’s mine,” Brian said, grabbing his cell phone and answering it. He listened for a moment, then grinned. Kevin knew it was Leighanne by the way he was smiling.
Kevin flashed a smile at him and mouthed, “I’m gonna go ahead.” Brian nodded. Kevin went back outside and started down to the lake. He walked onto the dock, to the very edge, and jumped in. He swam under the water, trying to get used to the coldness.
Suddenly, his foot got caught in something. Kevin forced his eyes open under the water, trying to see what was wrapped around his ankle. He found himself surrounded by tall weeds. As he struggled to get out of them, he just got more tangled in. Soon his breath started to run out, and he needed to get to the surface. But the weeds were wrapped around him, and he could not get out, try as he might. He yanked and twisted around, panic-stricken. If he didn’t get out of there soon, he would drown! His lungs felt like they were on fire from lack of oxygen. Finally, Kevin could not hold his breath any longer, and in an instant, he knew he was going to die.
Suddenly, up above him in the water, he saw a bright light, then a figure descending into the water. He couldn’t make out its face. The only thing he could really see was something shiny hanging from the person’s neck. That was the last thing he saw before darkness overtook him.
“Ok, bye, honey,” Brian said, hanging up the phone. Leighanne was shopping with Kristin and had just called to check in with him. She is so sweet, Brian thought happily. He put away his phone and started outdoors to the lake. He looked out into the lake, for Kevin, but didn’t see him.
He’s probably under water, Brian figured, and watched as he neared the lake. But no one came to the surface. Brian headed to the dock, still wondering where his cousin was. And that’s when he saw him, lying on his back on the dock.
At first, Brian just thought Kevin was sunbathing. But as he got closer, he realized something was terribly wrong. Kevin’s skin looked blue, and his chest was not rising.
“Kev!!” Brian screamed, rushing over to him. He thought about doing CPR, but knew he needed to call for help first. He raced back up to the cabin and grabbed his phone, shakily dialing 911. When someone answered, he told them what had happened and where he was. Then he hung up and carried the phone with him back down to his motionless cousin. Seeing that he was still not breathing, Brian began mouth to mouth, then checked for a pulse. There was none. Although he felt like having a panic attack, Brian struggled to remain calm as he began CPR.
A few minutes later, the paramedics arrived, carrying a stretcher down to the dock. Kevin still was not breathing. Brian stepped back to let them work and began to cry, as he watched them attach his cousin to all kinds of things. After a few minutes, one paramedic called for a life flight helicopter. Brian’s eyes widened, for he knew that meant Kevin was in bad shape. The paramedic saw this and hastily explained that because there were no hospitals very close, it was easiest to use a helicopter to get him quickly to the hospital.
The helicopter arrived a few minutes later. It landed on the lawn behind the cabin and some more paramedics rushed out of it. They all loaded Kevin onto a stretcher and hurried him into the helicopter. Brian followed, and the paramedics sat him down in the front, next to the pilot, while they all worked on Kevin in the back.
Brian had never been in a helicopter before and never wanted to again. The ride was horrible for him, since his cousin was lying nearly dead in the back, and also because he was terrified of heights.
Once they landed at St. Joseph Hospital, Kevin was immediately brought out of the helicopter and rushed into the ER. One paramedic stayed back and led Brian in to a waiting room in the ER where he could wait for some news on Kevin. Brian immediately took out his cell phone again and called Kevin’s mother. Then he called Leighanne on her cell phone and told her and Kristin to come to the hospital. Finally, he called his own parents.
A few minutes later, everyone had arrived, and they all sat together, praying and waiting for information on Kevin. Brian still was not sure what had happened. It was obvious that Kevin had drowned, but as Brian thought more about it, there were many questions left unanswered. For example, if Kevin had actually drowned, how did he get onto the dock? Someone must have pulled him out of the lake. But Brian hadn’t seen anyone else there.
Brian was suddenly pulled out of his thoughts when a doctor appeared before the group of them. “Are you all with Kevin Richardson?” he asked. They nodded solemnly. “I’m Dr. Knight. I was working on Kevin when he was brought in. I’m sorry to tell you, but it doesn’t look good.” Ann Richardson gasped. “We’re not sure how long Kevin was without oxygen, but it was enough to cause brain damage. Right now, he is in a coma. We have moved him upstairs to ICU, where we are monitoring him closely. Right now, only immediate family can go see him, and only two at a time.
Ann and Kristin looked at each other, for they were the only ones there that were Kevin’s immediate family. “Come with me, I will take you all up there, and the rest of you can wait in the waiting room while the other two go in,” Dr. Knight said. He led them upstairs to the third floor, which was ICU. He showed Brian, Leighanne, and Brian’s parents, Jackie and Harold, the waiting room. They all sat down while Dr. Knight took Ann and Kristin down the hall to Kevin’s room. He had been given a private room so no fans would bother him or his family.
When Ann and Kristin entered the room, they gasped. Kevin lay lifelessly in the bed, attached to so many monitors and machines that they could barely see his face. He was no longer blue, but deathly pale. Kristin began to sob. She slowly took a seat next to her husband and took his hand.
“Baby, it’s me, Kristin,” she said tearfully, rubbing his limp hand.
Ann cried silently as she watched Kristin. She eventually sat down on the other side of Kevin’s bed and ran her fingers through his dark hair, still damp from the water. As she looked down at him, she prayed silently that her son would live. She had already lost her husband, Jerald, to cancer a few years before. She couldn’t handle losing another member of her family.
Days passed, and Kevin didn’t get any better. One day, Dr. Knight ran some tests on Kevin to measure his level of brain activity. When he had the results, he came into the waiting room to discuss them with the family. Kevin’s two brothers, Jerald Jr. and Tim, were there now too.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news,” Dr. Knight started bluntly. “The tests show that Kevin is brain dead. I am requesting your permission to turn off the life support machines.”
Ann began to sob bitterly. Jerald Jr. put his arm around his shaking mother, trying to hold back tears himself. Kristin cried openly as well, and Leighanne tried to comfort her.
“You have our permission,” Ann finally said through her tears. “But can we see him one last time before you do?”
Dr. Knight nodded. “You may all go in to see him one last time, as long as you keep quiet,” he said.
“Thank you,” Ann whispered. They all stood up and went into Kevin’s room to say their final good-byes. They all went to his bed one at a time to say goodbye, then all joined hands for a prayer.
Then Dr. Knight walked into the room. They all stood back as he unplugged the respirator. A few moments later, the line on the heart monitor went flat. Everyone began to cry softly.
“Goodbye, honey,” Ann said tearfully. They all started for the door, unable to stay in that room any longer. Ann was the last one out of the room. But suddenly, as she stepped through the doorway, the continuous wail of the heart monitor stopped and began beeping slowly. Ann stopped and spun around. She gasped when she looked at her son. His eyes were open, and he was staring right at her. Dr. Knight looked shocked. Kevin was alive. It was a miracle.
“Kevin?” It was the next day, and Dr. Knight had just come into Kevin’s room. Kevin looked up at him anxiously. He was still on a respirator and wanted to be taken off so that he could talk to his family. He could tell they were very confused as to what had happened to him, and he wanted to tell them what he had seen.
“Do you want me to take that tube out of your throat now?” asked Dr. Knight. It was as if he had read Kevin’s mind. Kevin nodded eagerly. “Okay, I want you to take a deep breath, and on the count of three, let it out slowly,” Dr. Knight instructed. Kevin nodded and took a deep breath.
When the doctor had counted to three, he let it out while Dr. Knight pulled out the breathing tube. Kevin gasped for air once it was out, but soon caught his breath. “You had water in your lungs. That’s why you were on the respirator,” Dr. Knight explained.
“Am I going to be okay?” Kevin asked nervously.
“Kevin, I’m going to be honest with you. Yesterday, all the tests we ran on you signified that you were brain dead. We were going to unplug the life support machines. But just as we did, you came back to life. In all my years of being a doctor, I have never seen anything like that before. I don’t know how to explain it, medically that is,” Dr. Knight told him. Kevin was shocked. He had remembered almost drowning, and the figure in the water, but he didn’t know about what Dr. Knight had just told him. He had no idea that had happened the day before.
After Dr. Knight left, Kevin’s mother came hurrying in. “Oh Kevin,” she cried, hugging him tightly.
“I love you, Mom,” Kevin said, hugging his mother back.
“Kevin, sweetheart, what happened?” she asked.
Kevin thought back to the day before. “I was swimming in the lake, and I got tangled in some weeds. The more I tried to get out, the more tangled I got. I couldn’t get out, and I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die. But just as I couldn’t hold my breath any longer, I saw this bright light, and then someone came into the water with me. I couldn’t see the person’s face, only some shiny thing hanging from his neck.”
“A shiny thing?” asked Ann, confused.
“Yeah, like a medal or something. It was round and shiny,” Kevin said.
“Do you know if it was a man or a woman?” asked Ann.
“I think it was a man,” Kevin said. “But I don’t think it was Brian. It looked too big to be Brian.”
“No, it wasn’t Brian. He said he was in the house on the phone and when he came down, he saw you unconscious on the dock,” Ann said. “He didn’t see anyone else around.”
Kevin was puzzled. Someone had pulled him out of the weeds and onto the dock. But who?
A week later, Kevin was released from the hospital. Amazingly, he had no brain damage from lack of oxygen and was perfectly fine. Dr. Knight was calling it a miracle.
Kevin was happy to be alive, and he knew that without that person, the one that had pulled him out, he would be dead for sure. He wanted to thank whoever had saved him, but he didn’t know how. How could he thank someone if he didn’t even know who they were?
The day after he was released from the hospital, Ann and Kristin had gone out to get some groceries, so Kevin was left alone in the house. Suddenly, the phone rang. Kevin hurried to answer it.
“Hello?” he said.
“Hey, Kev, it’s me,” said a voice. It was Brian.
“Hey, Rok,” Kevin said.
“Look, Kev, can Leigh and I come over real quick. We have to show you something. It’s important,” Brian said.
“Sure, Bri,” said Kevin, wondering what could be so important.
“Okay, we’ll be over in a few minutes,” Brian said. “See ya then.”
“Okay, bye,” Kevin said, hanging up.
A few minutes later, Brian and Leighanne arrived. Brian had something in his hand. “Look at this, Kev,” he said. He opened his hand to show Kevin what he was holding. Kevin gasped when he saw what it was. It was a medal, round and gold. It looked exactly like what the person in the lake had been wearing, except it looked more rusty than shiny.
“Where did you get this?” asked Kevin eagerly.
“Leigh and I decided to go swimming up at the lake and see if we could find anything that might help us find out what happened and who saved you. I found this stuck on some weeds in the lake, near the dock,” Brian replied. It was then that Kevin realized both Brian and Leighanne’s hair was wet.
“What does it say?” asked Kevin.
Brian squinted at the letters engraved on the medal. “It’s hard to read,” he said. “It’s kind of rusty, probably from being in the water. I can make out the word ‘bravery’ and that is about it.” He handed it to Kevin. Kevin studied it carefully, but he could not make out the words either.
“Well, at least this proves that I wasn’t hallucinating or something,” Kevin said with a chuckle. “But it still doesn’t tell me who the person was.”
Suddenly, they heard the garage door going up and knew that Kristin and Ann were back. “We’re home,” Ann called as they walked inside. Then she saw Brian and Leighanne. “Well hi, guys,” she said, smiling at them.
“Hi!” they said in unison.
“Hey, Mom, look what Brian found,” Kevin said, handing his mother the medal. She stared at it for a moment, her eyes widening. When she looked up at them, her face was white.
“What’s wrong, Aunt Ann?” Brian asked.
“Where did you get this?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
“I found it in the lake up by the camp,” Brian replied. “Kev says it’s the same medal the guy that saved him was wearing.” Suddenly, Ann’s eyes filled with tears.
“Kevin, do you know who this belongs to?” she asked, her voice trembling.
“No,” Kevin replied.
“It was your father’s,” Ann whispered. Kevin gasped. “Kevin, before you were born, your father was a firefighter.”
“I know,” Kevin said. “I know that he was a firefighter, but that’s about it. He never liked to talk about it though.”
“I know,” said Ann. “One day, when he was a firefighter, there was a terrible fire in a large school. There were many children trapped inside. All the firefighters worked hard to get everyone out, because the fire was so large, they knew the school was going to burn down. They couldn’t stop the fire. They thought they had gotten everyone out, but then they realized that one of their firemen was still in the building. He had gone in to look for a little girl that was missing. The little girl had already come out, but that firemen didn’t know it. He was one of your father’s best friends, so your father ran back in the burning building along with another firefighter to look for him. They found him unconscious in the building and pulled him out just before the building collapsed. Your father and the other man with him were awarded these medals for their bravery. But unfortunately, the man they pulled out ended up dying anyway because his burns were so severe. Your father didn’t think he deserved this medal, so the only time he wore it was at the ceremony where he was honored with it. After that, he quit his job as a firefighter and stuck the medal in a drawer. But after he died, when I was cleaning out his drawers, I found it. I thought that he was very brave, not just for going back into that school, but for fighting cancer. So, the day of the funeral, I stuck it in his casket before he was buried.” Suddenly, she burst into tears.
Kevin stared at her, open mouthed. If she had put the medal in his father’s casket, then how could it end up in the lake. Kevin knew how, but it was so unbelievable. But it made sense, the bright light, how Brian couldn’t see anyone around the lake, and the whole fact that Kevin was still alive. What had happened to him was a miracle, and his father had caused it. His father had given him a final gift, the gift of life.
The Gift Ó 2000 by Julie