I Had Company
“Where's Wendy,” I heard my panicked father ask after losing sight of me.
“I don't know,” came my older sister’s quick reply.
I was at the bottom of my aunt's inground outdoor pool, completely exhausted from my struggle to live. I had just spent precious energy thrashing about only to sink further down. I had also tried calling out for help from the depths of the pool but all that produced was bubbles. It was sort of funny in a way, me trying to scream while submerged, but instead of words or sounds coming out of my mouth there were only bubbles. Kids can find humour in the strangest circumstances and I was no exception. I knew this story, my story, was about to end. I was going to drown. I was about to die. It was only a matter of time, but I was calm. No longer did I try to save myself. I had been given a message and I had company.
It was summer holidays and I was a child of about seven. We were on a family vacation from our home near Edmonton, Alberta and were staying at my aunt Joyce's Spanish styled house in Coquitlam, BC. I remember that it was a hot day and Aunt Joyce and Uncle Sandy had gone out for a few hours. My two sisters, father, and myself, were at the pool located just steps from the sliding patio doors. My mother was still in the house keeping busy with laundry.
Swimming was never of much interest to me. I remember how I would cling to my dad when he tried to teach me to be comfortable and enjoy the water. I had always feared it and hated getting my face wet. I recall having a handful of swimming lessons prior to our trip. How I dreaded those lessons! The only form of water that I genuinely celebrated was of the frozen variety. I used to spend hours skating at the outdoor ice rink near our home…
I could hear my sister's muffled voices as they lounged by the poolside. No longer could I hear the rhythmic even glides of my father's sidestrokes going back and forth across the pool.
The first thing I remember seeing while under the water, was a bleak gray haze and some red and blue lines marking different sections of the pool. I had been walking in the shallow end when suddenly the pool floor disappeared from beneath my feet. Just how deep was this 'ocean'? I had witnessed my father use the diving board earlier that morning. It was deep enough to dive in and deep enough to drown in, I surmised. The panic surged through me when I found my feet touching the cement floor. I was engulfed and choking on water. I had kicked until I could kick no more. I sputtered and flailed as I tried to overcome the inevitable end. Then a strange thing happened.
A kaleidoscope of vivid colours passed before my eyes. It was a beautiful sight. I stared at the dazzling images in disbelief. Then I felt a warm sensation encompass me. It was like someone had put an electric blanket around me and was also holding me. I was incredibly comfortable. I felt a wonderful voice - I didn’t hear it; I felt it speaking to my heart.
"Why do you struggle? You're safe. You know me. There's nothing to fear". This was the message I received from the anonymous source.
I couldn’t see the face of the one who had just spoken those words. Somehow I simply knew where they came from. It was the voice of God, kind and reassuring. I was so happy to feel safe and to hear those words. I wasn't alone anymore. Then I saw a bright white light flash before my eyes. It was pure, inviting, and perfect to behold. I have never seen this colour ever since. It was so very bright. More strangely though, looking at it didn't hurt my eyes. Instead, it was welcoming and cozy. I never wanted to leave this place or be away from God’s presence again.
I remember hearing sounds of water moving quickly. The powerful swishing of my father's breast-stroke was now tearing through the water. The next thing I knew, I was being grabbed by strong arms, yanked upwards from the bottom of the pool. Higher and higher I rose to the surface. The white light was replaced with a bland, gray blur. I felt the warm “hug” releasing its hold on me.
Finally, I broke free from the haze and my head crashed through the water. I saw my mother, pale like marble, with a terrified expression fixed on her face. She ran out of the sliding doors. She had seen the rescue.
“I wish you hadn't done that”, I quietly said, much to my father's shock and concern. I could have happily remained there forever in that state of perfect peace.
By Wendy Welk