The moment I felt my foot slip, I knew I was in trouble. I attempted the flip anyway, wanting to impress my 10 year-old friend.
I didn’t pull out on time.
My head hit the bottom of the pool, and as my neck snapped back, I was intensely aware that this was the end. Now paralyzed, my body sunk. My eyes sought the surface of the water, searching for some hope, but all I could see was a blinding light.
Distracted, I momentarily forgot my predicament. Why have I never noticed the sun from here before? I wondered. An avid swimmer, I loved swimming underwater with my eyes open, performing tricks and pretending I was a mermaid or a dolphin. This day, I decided to practice my ‘Olympic’ dives. My friend, who was a year older, wasn’t quite as brave. I might have been showing off a bit.
It’s not the sun, I realized. The white light was encompassing me now, and with it I felt a deep sense of calm and peacefulness. My moment had come.
Come home, the light beckoned.
But I just got started! Do I have to?
No. You can stay, but you have to know it won’t be easy.
It’s okay, my mind responded. I am strong.
You will have to be strong, but you will never be alone.
A force of love lifted me from that water, and I watched myself climb the ladder and collapse on the ground. Then I was me again, shaken and trembling, but alive. My friend had disappeared. I hoped she’d gone for help, but when none materialized, I knew I had to make myself move.
I escaped that day with a cracked vertebrae, and a summer of sleeping on a hard board while it healed: a hardship I would soon forget. The memory of that white light, though, has never left me. I was nine when I had my first taste of how sacred life is, and learned that it is not a destination, but a journey.