I died when I was 8 years old. I drowned. It was summer and my father took me down to our dock to go for the first swim of my summer vacation. Being scared of the water for all of my short life, but having learned how to swim the summer before, fear had abandoned me to the point of blurring my self-preservation. I had become cocky. I barreled across the dock, with my bare feet slapping the boards, sending off hollow echoes across the lake that existed right outside our door. My father’s shouts to wait blew away, lost in the noise of my feet, and my shouts of glee.
I reached the end of the dock and with the summer sun on my back and sheer joy of no classrooms for the next three months, I launched myself into the air. There was a moment of peace, of floating, that lasted for hours in my 8-year-old brain. I was Superman, soon to be Aquaman. I splashed into the surface of the lake like a missile. My body sliced through the water until my feet embedded themselves into the mud at the bottom of the lake. I let it slide up to mid shin, squishing my toes into the cool muck, letting the lake comfort me like it was giving me a hug. The lake was fickle. The comforting feeling left as soon as it came when I tried pushing against the muck trying in vain to propel myself back up to the world of oxygen. The lake wouldn’t let me go. It held me firm. It’s cool comforting hands, had turned into the slippery tentacles of a sea monster. The more I tried to free my feet, the further they sunk into the muck. I couldn’t hear anything down there but my beating heart, but for my whole life I remembered a sucking sound, and the lakes chuckle as it laughed at its own watery joke. My little boy mind did not understand the trouble it was in. I was 8 years old. Little boys don’t think of their life ending on the first day of summer. I was still in the what do I want to be when I grow up phase, not the contemplating my own mortality phase.
My pulse grew faster, and my lungs burned, screaming for the oxygen they needed. My calm left me there at the bottom of the lake to fend for myself. I panicked. Just before I passed out I looked up at the surface, to see the light coming through the water for one last time. I thought I would never see the sun again. I reached out my hand trying to grasp the light, trying to grasp the last bit of life. Then as my world went black.
People don’t remember much from when they were little. They remember a birthday present, or a favorite toy, or that kid that lived down the street that had blond hair and ate his boogers, (what was his name?). Most of those memories have a haze over them. They are like a forgotten book in the book shelf of your mind. But I will tell you I remember every detail of that day. The light through the water was so bright it looked like it was piercing water molecules on its way to my strained eyes. The face of my father was even more detailed. His worry and grief I could feel with every cell of my body as he looked down at me in my hospital bed. I woke up, and in my blurry vision I saw my father.
“I saw the light.” I said. My father’s raised his eyebrows. “The light through the water.”
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Sample of The Light through the Water