Kindred Spirit Way—Striving to discover spiritual truth...
If you're not interested in a greater and deeper understanding of life, this page is not for you. However...
if you want to find peace, overcome depression and make the world a better place, perhaps it is.
Last updated: 11/09/2019
The Day I Died
The year was 1958 and I was a young sailor stationed at the US NAVAL RADIO STATION, in Imperial Beach, California. I had been a student learning radio communications for several months and was close to graduating. I would have been eighteen years old.
It was one of those windy March days when the sky is a deep blue, but filled with those big, soft, puffy clouds that would block the sun from time to time. When it did, it was cold, but then immediately warmed up when the clouds moved. When you were in the sun and out of the wind, it was a nice, warm day. The water on the other hand, was not so nice; it was rough and the life guards had put up signs warning everyone to stay out due to rip-tides.
Anyway, with nothing better to do, three of us headed for the beach, figuring we’d just lay around, gaze at the girls and maybe get a little tan.
Believe me when I say I had no intention of going swimming—it was just not warm enough and the water was too rough. That was further compounded by the kelp rising and falling with the rough waves. But what could it hurt if I only went in up to my knees? So I went in the water up to my ankles and watched the thick mass of kelp rising and falling with the waves and remember thinking, “boy, I'd hate to get caught in that stuff.”
I had only been in the water a minute or less when a wave came in a little further than the others—not all that high, not even hip-deep. As you know, waves come in, dissipate and go back out. No biggie, standard operating procedure. But even though it wasn’t deep, the out-flowing water grabbed my ankles just as tightly as if two hands had, and jerked them out from under me, slamming me down flat on my back.
On my back, I immediately saw the next wave come crashing over me. I instinctively took a deep breath and began fighting to break free, thrashing, twisting, turning, and all to no avail. Still flat on my back I was being raced out to sea feet first. I vividly remember my butt bumping along on what felt like a washboard surface as this unstoppable force dragged me out to sea.
After twenty or thirty seconds I opened my eyes and could dimly see that I was at least eight feet under—and still being rapidly pulled out. The water was a dark, blurry green, but I could see white foam on the surface, rising, falling and being tossed about by the waves. When the rip-tide had grabbed me, the water had only been about knee deep.
Overpowered and helpless, I did everything I could to break loose of the ocean’s grip. Then I felt pure horror as that huge mass of kelp was suddenly all over me, its tentacles wrapping around and gripping my body. The more I fought, the tighter they grabbed me. Now I really scared. My lungs felt like they were going to burst, the weeds had me locked in a vice-like death grip and I was relentlessly being pulled deeper and deeper out to sea.
As the kelp rose and fell with the waves I, too, rose and fell. I was helpless. Then it happened…
If you've ever tried to hold your breath as long as you can, then you know there comes a point where you no longer can. Well, that’s what finally happened…I could hold my breath no more and I watched as bubbles from my mouth rose to the surface.
Then I remember thinking, “Ah, the sun must have come out from behind a cloud,” because I saw a brilliant white light on the surface of the water and the water, itself, became a luminescent green. Suddenly a commanding voice issued a single one word order, “Relax!”
Amazingly, my body instantly relaxed completely. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, I wasn’t concerned, I just did what I was ordered to.
It was about that time when I realized I was looking at my body, completely unconcerned that it was lying inert, rising and falling with the ocean’s movement. I don't recall seeing the kelp that was wrapped around me. I guess it was inconsequential.
Suddenly I was again in my body, and my head, which had been lying parallel with the ground, started rising. The kelp miraculously began sliding off me as I started rising toward the surface, slipping through the kelp as they amazingly slid off me.
I popped to the surface totally alert and with no water in my lungs. Like I said at the beginning, the sea was rough and, even though I was no longer on the bottom of the ocean, my ordeal was anything but over.
The waves seemed to be coming from all directions, rising and falling way over my head; they weren’t rolling in like breakers normally do. When I popped to the surface I was in a trough and couldn’t see anything but water on all four sides. Then I crested on a wave, but was facing out to sea and all I saw was ocean…scary. Then down in the trough again. The next time I crested, I spun around, trying to locate land to know which way to swim.
I was shocked to see how far out I was when I finally located land. So far out that people looked like small ants. I was probably about a thousand yards beyond the Imperial Beach pier; maybe more, and it was a long pier. The water was so rough I could only catch glimpses of the land, but that’s the direction I started swimming.
Progress was impossible against the outgoing tide, but it soon became obvious that the current was taking me south towards Mexico. How I knew to start swimming south and angle in, I have no clue, but that’s what I did.
My nightmare seemed like it would never end. And the truth is, I cannot tell you how I got to shore because I do not remember. I swam south while angling in for at least an hour, maybe more, until I was about 50 yards off shore; then I headed directly in. Here the water was behaved more like normal waves, breaking and coming in. So for the last fifty yards or so, I rode the waves in by body surfing.
I remember that last wave when I finally felt sand under my hands and feet. I was at least a mile down the beach from where I had started. But even now with my fingers touching land, the fight wasn’t over. As I tried to stand up the outgoing tide was dragging me back out again. In my exhausted condition I was unable to walk because the force of the water grabbed my feet with such force and the sand would dissolve under them. I grabbed at the sand with my hands, trying to drag myself out, but the sand would just dissolve in my grip.
Horrified, I realized I was losing the battle and going back out to sea again. Then another wave washed over me and pushed me in just a little further. I was finally able to stand up the second time I washed in. But walking out seemed impossible as the outgoing water again whipped against my legs with such force they were almost pulled out from under me.
I remember thinking, “The ocean isn’t going to let me go!”
It took more than an hour to walk back to my buddies. When I got back, one of them looked up and said, “Where in the hell have you been?”
I didn’t know what to say, so I half lied, “I went for a walk.”
As I said at the beginning, the year was 1958. I was a young sailor and had never heard anyone talk of a near-death experience. I did not know about getting caught up in the “White Light.” I didn’t realize that I had been sent back—that I should have died. All I knew was that something had happened that was more than my mind could grasp.
So I put it out of my mind.
One day maybe thirty years later I began writing. I was just writing autobiographical stuff. Suddenly this story began unfolding on paper and I began crying as I relived experience all over again. By then I had experienced more of life and I understood what had happened. As I wrote, I cried. I bawled. I understood that I’d been given a second chance. I also realized that I had four children who shouldn’t be here, and that they have children who shouldn’t be here, either, except I had been spared for some reason...who knows why?