People have an uncanny ability to remember the most random facts about their life; the square root of pi, how many countries there are on this earth, they may even remember a conversation they had 15 years ago with a distant relative. It’s quite a remarkable ability to have, sadly I do not possess this, I usually have to write down a to-do list to remember a task I’ve been asked to do. I always think it’s down to the fact that I didn’t eat those capsicums my mum told me, as a kid would help me with my memory. There are quite a few things I do remember about my past that I don’t need my diary to remember. One of those big moments I’ve had that I’ve been unable to forget. In fact, if the temperature is right, the air smells fresh, and I can hear the trickling of water, memories from that day comes flooding back and I feel this slight shudder.
The day I almost died…it’s a hard memory to forget.
I was about 14 years old, the year of my last trip to the Philippines. At that age I was a wannabe tomboy who craved adventure. I was very close to my family, particularly to my cousin Romeo. I always wanted to copy what my male cousins did and wanted to show off how equally brave I was.
It had been a tradition of ours to spend the day at this place called ‘The Karayan’ it was basically in the middle of nowhere, fields and fields of land that required a long and tiresome expedition to get to. But it was so worth it. Our group only ever consisted of us ‘kids’ and our very young, close to our age aunties and uncles. We would gather picnic baskets and rations for our trip. The usual plan was to get up early, walk, find our perfect spot, a place with a shade, with room to lounge but also cook our meals for the day, but the most important criteria was to make sure it had a prime view of the river where we could swim and catch fish to cook. On particularly hot days, this was our treat, being able to cool down in fresh water, having fun and being with my family.
We’d been doing this trip for years and we pretty much understood that there were typical dangers that were involved with our day out. There were parts of the river that was rife with leeches, there were jagged rocks and sometimes the flow of the water could be quite strong depending on what the weather was like. We didn’t let those minor details ruin our fun, though. There were plenty of us that we knew we would keep an eye on each other.
Being one of the older kids on this trip, I felt like I was too good to worry about any hidden dangers, my job was to protect the younger kids. It was almost as if my naïve belief I was such a grown up made me invincible, but that was far from the truth.
After several hours of swimming in the open area of the water, a few people had gone to inspect a hidden area of the riverside. Then we heard shouting, I ran out of the water and went to see what the cause of the commotion was.
Someone had found a waterfall! It wasn’t a particularly large one but it was big enough to take your breath away when you jumped off the edge. The water looked pretty clear beyond the jump, unfortunately just at the bottom of the fall, the crashing of the water made the water a little murky so we weren’t too sure what lay under there. The waterfall water then split into two section, one was a little hidden by vines and water wildlife (water lilies etc) and the other had pretty open water.
The idea of jumping off and ending up being dragged towards the hidden water stream terrified me but as I watched my cousins take a leap of faith one by one, I felt a little tingle of excitement. I wanted to show how brave and tough I was, I wanted to do it too.
I tried to shake my hesitation as my turn came up, I stood at the edge and took a big gulp of air, here goes nothing I thought to myself. I turned to look at my family and friends, smiled and jumped off.
You know that feeling when you suddenly realize something is wrong but you don’t know what it is, it’s almost like the sunshine and birds chirping turn dark and you know you’ve made a big mistake? Mid jump I realized how stupid I was being but by then it was too late. I hurtled through the air, I tried to scream but the air had knocked out of me.
As I crashed into the water, I felt a hard thump on my body. Something was wrong, the water was a lot stronger than I had anticipated. I wasn’t a weak swimmer, but at the same time, the cold water that I wasn’t expecting and the fast flow of the water kept pushing me under. I tried hard to swim up but felt myself get tired, in between bobbing up above the water and suddenly being pushed under again, I could hear laughter. Laughing, loud, were they laughing at me? Did they think I was horsing around? I was in trouble and no one was helping me. As I grew weary I felt my body float towards a deeper part of the water, somehow I managed to get trapped beneath a tree trunk that had fall underwater, the force of the water above me forced me deeper under the drunk, I was trapped. I was slowly running out of air and panic filled me. I wanted to scream but I was so tired and I was sure I’d swallowed plenty of water already. Trying hard to keep my eyes open, I kept blinking, the water stinging my eyes making it hard to see. Then I felt several hard tugs and I was freed from my underwater prison. As I reached the surface I fought with the water to keep myself up. Spluttering I looked around me. I don’t know how long I was under but the current seemed stronger, either that or my experience had exhausted me. I turned to look behind me, at my savior, it was Sam* our old family friend, he gestured for me to try to swim in the direction of the clear water but it was too late the fast water had already dragged me in the direction of the murky water and overgrown foliage. Sam* looked exhausted and I could see him being dragged under water, I tried to swim out to him but it was no use, I too was being dragged around by the swirling water. My feet got caught in underwater weeds, I had to yank to get away, occasionally I would turn around to make sure Sam* was still behind me. This battle continued for what felt like hours, in reality, it probably was a mere matter of minutes, I don’t know when but at some point, Sam* disappeared, I hoped that he was okay, that he had somehow managed to get to the clear water, but in the pit of my stomach I was afraid he was stuck under water.
I was exhausted and terrified, the ordeal was truly frightening and I wanted to cry. If something happened to Sam* it would be my entire fault.
I felt the water pull me along, instead of fighting it, I pushed my body into a starfish position, I figured there was no point thrashing in the water because I would be more likely to drown that way. I felt nauseated from all the water I had drank, I just closed my eyes and let the water pull me along.
It turns out that was the best decision I had made, eventually the water lead right back to the water area where we had been swimming previously, so did the clear river, as I got to where everyone else were swimming, I scanned the clear river to see if Sam* was following me, he wasn’t with our group and I knew he wouldn’t be with the group still stupidly jumping down the waterfall.
Panic began to set in again as I swam to the land. Exhaustion had been temporarily washed away as I feared the worst for Sam*. I shouted to my Aunty, ‘Where is Sam? Have you seen Sam*’ she nodded and called me over to her, a few people had huddled near a hut that had been there since basically, we had started coming.
Sam* was sat on a bench with my sister and cousin inspecting his back. When he saw me he smiled, I ran to him. ‘What happened?’ I cried as my cousin tried to calm me down.
It turns out no one realized that I was in trouble, after I had gone under water, Sam* realized something was wrong and jumped in after me. Except not only did he get stuck in the trunk like me, he had also managed to land and get dragged under the water along jagged rocks, his back had been torn up and he was bleeding profusely. ‘I’m so sorry’ I cried hugging Sam and thanking him for rescuing me, he shook his head and assured me he was okay.
Our day trip pretty much ended there and we all hurried home determined to get Sam* medical help.
First, my Mum helped patch him up, disinfecting his wounds then later took him to the doctors to ensure he hadn’t severely injured himself.
I know I said this was the day I almost died, but the truth is, it was also the day Sam* almost died. Luckily for us both, we recovered, I didn’t suffer severe trauma from almost dying and having my family think it was completely hilarious and Sam’s scars healed and we both remained friends.
That experience opened my eyes to how close I was to having my life end, I was so lucky to have had such a good friend know when something was wrong. I am very aware that if Sam* hadn’t been there that day, there was a very real possibility that I would not be here today. Whilst I am so sad that Sam* had to get hurt in order to save me, I am so grateful for his existence, never did I picture having a friend willing to put their life in danger to save a friend, if that’s not love then I don’t know what it is.
There was no way I was able to thank him for what he did, but I do remember that story every day, it’s part of the reason why I had a major wake-up call to the kind of person I was.
People in this life is not just saved to be saved, they are saved for a reason, I have a purpose in this life, I don’t just mean that religiously (because I’m still trying to figure that out) but also spiritually, I know we’re all destined to do great things and I hope mine is to someday help others. Sam was my guardian angel, do you realize how rare it is to meet your angel and not die?
In saying all this, I think about how different my life was after my near death experience, I appreciate life for the simple fact that I am alive. Don’t get me wrong there are bad days and good days, when I have a moment of reprieve from the demons in my life, I like to take the time to think about that day, how for some miracle I was saved, and how thankful I need to be as it could have just as easily ended badly.
Life sure is better when you have people like Sam*. Please, take this moment to think about the moment someone saved your life, it doesn’t have to be a literal meaning, in fact, small actions can sometimes have a big impact. Think hard about every time you were saved, have you been able to pay that kind act forward? If not, then do it today, save someone’s life, watch the world become a little brighter, plus you never know who that person will become, you may just be saving someone who will one-day cure cancer…
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kid’s proud someday, and you proud every day!
Peace and Love,