The Mallee country of Victoria (Australia) where I lived as a child is hot and dry. We?d often go for weeks on end with the temperature hovering around 100 degrees (F). This meant great swimming pool weather.
It was the end of year school holidays 1954, I’d just turned eleven and Christmas was just around the corner. Ah, happy days, I thought, as I dropped my towel off at the side of the local swimming pool and jumped in at the five foot mark. As I wasn’t a real crash hot swimmer I usually went in the pool at the shallow end, but as it was full of young kids splashing about, I decided to plunge in near the deep-end.
I had hardly started swimming, when suddenly someone, or something, landed directly on top of me. Then like some fallen autumn leaf, I floated down, down, down through the murky, non-filtrated water to the bottom of the pool. I lay there motionless, apart from the occasional wash caused by swimmers as they splashed about unknowingly above me.
Drowning is not a pleasant way to die. I came too in a panic, struggling for air. I felt such a searing pain in my lungs that I thought they were going to burst like some overblown balloon. The water around me felt incredibly cold for such a blisteringly hot day and inky black as well.
I thrashed about madly trying to surface, but all to no avail. It felt like lead weights had been attached to my limbs, holding me down.
Then the water, which only seconds before had felt so freezing cold, suddenly turned invitingly warm and colours of every hue swirled about me. It was magical. I calmed down immediately and watched as they changed shape. It was rather like being inside a Kaleidoscope.
Colourful patterns flashed in front of me and twinkled like jewels in a crown. All the colours of the rainbow were represented and some that are not even in our visible spectrum. Then while I was enjoying watching this heavenly display, I heard the sound of singing. It sounded so sweet, so pleasant, so mesmerizing.
The nearer the singing sounded, the sweeter it seemed to be. I?d learned at school about the Sirens who lured unsuspecting sailors to their deaths in Homer?s Iliad, and now it seemed those very same maidens were singing their deadly chorus to me!
“Go to sleep…Go to sleep…Go to… sleep” They sang ever so sweetly and alluringly over and over again, lulling me to sleep.
“It’s so pleasant when you sleep,” they crooned, “Go to sleeeeep….now.”
Just as I was about to give myself up to their deadly seductions, the pool suddenly lit up with an awesome light and the singing immediately stopped!
I was surrounded by the Light, enveloped in it! I felt as if I was in some kind of giant bubble and I was held there ever so securely by loving arms. I felt so happy and full of joy! It was bliss and so very, very peaceful. Now I no longer wanted to go to sleep! Instead I wanted to stay right where I was, safe and secure in the arms of Love Himself! But it wasn’t to be.
In a split second, or so it seemed, everything changed. The bubble burst and I was in searing pain all over again. Once more I thought my lungs were going to explode, or at the very least, that my ribs were going to break! For unbeknown to me, at that very moment I was being given artificial respiration by Mr Palmer, my fifth grade teacher, who had just rescued me from the swimming pool.
It seems that he had been sitting on the grass surrounding the pool keeping a watchful eye on his own kids, when he’d noticed some teenage boys playing Water-Polo with a beach ball. (Later banned). One of them, he’d noticed, had jumped up high to catch the ball and had landed backwards, falling on top of me. As the water was so murky, no one in the pool had noticed me disappear, no one but Mr Palmer, that is.
When I hadn’t surfaced in a reasonable amount of time, he went around the pool asking if anyone had seen me. No one he spoke to had seen me come up (or go down, for that matter). So without even waiting to take off his shoes, Mr Palmer dived into the pool at about where he had last seen me.
After searching unsuccessfully around the murky depths several times, he had to come up for air. Then on his next try he felt my hair floating near his hand and grabbed hold of it. With the help of several others, he dragged me out of the pool and started to resuscitate me.
I remember seeing a very wet, soggy, but concerned looking Mr Palmer bending over me when I threw up all over his shoes! Boy was my rib cage ever sore and my nose was streaming, I must have looked a really pretty sight!
After about a week when I?d recovered somewhat, Mr Palmer came to see me at home. He had tears in his eyes as he told me, “Carrie, when I was a P.O.W. in Changi, I used to wonder why I stayed alive and other younger, fitter men, died. I believe you?re my reason for surviving, I was meant to save your life!”