Sunday, November 6, 2011

Your life, no matter how long or short, can flash in front of your eyes on the way to dying

dorothy charles banks
As a youngster I was not a follower. I would readily accept a challenge or dare if it wasn’t too dangerous. Dangerous or not, there is something mischievous about a dare. If and when I strayed from my usual posture, it because I wanted to experience something different, intentionally breaking away from my regular routine.

This afternoon (Sunday) I was watching a automobile commercial where the distracted driver quickly stepped on his brakes, avoiding a crash with an 18 wheeler. I think the purpose of the commercial, in addition to selling the car,  was to show the efficiency of the car’s brakes.

But that’s not what caught my attention.

Just as the driver was about to T-bone the 18 wheeler, his life flashed in front of his eyes. He time traveled  back to his childhood through a series of scenes. It was at that moment in the commercial that took me back to the day my life flashed in front of my eyes. Some people argue that this never happens when you’re facing death. Just like some argue that dying individuals never see a bright light. I don’t argue those points. All life threatening experiences are different. My mother and grandmother saw "the light."

I was about 14-years-old, in middle school. I remember it was a hot summer day, one of the few summer days my mother allowed my sister and I to go swimming at Rosewood Park. When I say swimming, the correct term would be more like “floating underwater." Nonetheless, I thought I was really swimming!

On this particular day the good to excellent swimmers were diving off the board into the deep water. I was hanging out in the shallow water. Sometimes I’d venture into five feet of water, clinging to the pool's edge. I felt safe as I held on for support. 

The experienced divers were much more fun compared to me. Somebody yelled at me: “Dorothy Charles! I dare you to jump off the diving board!” Everybody turned to look at me, waiting to see what I would do. With all eyes on me, including the life guard, how could I refuse a dare! Even knowing I couldn’t swim a lick, my youthful ego wouldn’t let me refuse this public dare. I’d show them!

Laughing, I walked up the few steps leading to the diving board. I didn’t know how to dive so I just jumped into the deep water, feet first. I surfaced from the water, screaming for help. I felt panic and fear overtaking me. Everybody starting laughing. They thought I was kidding.  Immediately after screaming for help, my short life began flashing in front of me with lighting speed, almost like an out of control movie reel.

The second time I surfaced the reel was moving faster. The bodyguard was watching me,  thinking I was playing as I screamed again. I was looking in his direction. He didn’t move. He probably thought if I was stupid enough to take a dare and dive into the deep water, I knew how to swim.

The third time I surfaced the reel was still rolling.  I can’t explain it but I had the sense of mind to notice the sun was brighter than I remembered.  It was blindingly bright. At this point the reel ended abruptly as I was about to go under for a fourth time. 

The bodyguard dove into the pool, realizing that I was not playing a game. Lucky for me he hit the water when he did. He pumped out the water I had swallowed. Later he tried to convince me to get back in the pool, in the shallow section. I was too embarrassed. Everyone was standing around looking at me, concerned. The life guard didn’t scold or lecture me. He realized how scared I was. I went home, not understanding the reel. I didn't tell my mother what happened.

After several days I returned to the pool but I didn’t take another dare to dive into the deep section. I had learned my lesson. I wasn’t going to push my luck a second time.I have never forgotten how my young life flashed in front of my eyes that particular summer. 

Oh, yeah. There is one fact I forgot to mention. By the time the reel stopped, and I was going underwater for the fourth time, I had returned to my mother’s womb, waiting to be born. This was a true experience.

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