I was ten years old when I drowned.
Let me tell you, that is not the way you want to go out. It’s relatively quick mind you, compared to having cancer anyway, but those few minutes where you’re fighting for breath feel like forever.
I wasn’t doing anything stupid when it happened. I was just walking across an old wooden bridge up the road from my grandparents’ farm and bopping my hand along the railing to the beat of the music playing through my earphones. What I didn’t realize was that a section of the railing had rotted away, so when my hand didn’t have anything to make contact with, it threw me off balance and into the river below. It was only about a ten foot drop, but far enough for me to land hard and get knocked out. A guy fishing farther down the bank saw it all happened, and called 911 on his cell phone.
I was technically dead when I had arrived at the hospital, but miraculously the doctors still managed to save me. Maybe no one wanted a dead ten year old on their hands, and that’s why everyone worked extra hard. Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa…they all rushed to the hospital as soon as they heard the news, and they couldn’t stop crying.
“It’s okay,” I told them once I was strong enough to talk. “I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Please don’t cry.”
But then I said something that freaked everybody out. Here’s what it was…
“You guys aren’t going to be okay, though. You guys are headed for disaster.”
That was, I admit, a weird thing for me to say and everyone wanted to know what I meant.
“Nothing,” I told them. “I’m just tired and my head feels weird from what happened. Can I take a nap?”
So they left me alone to take a nap. I wasn’t really tired, though, and my head didn’t feel weird at all. I just didn’t want to go into it. You see, when you think you’re about to die, it doesn’t matter if you’re ten years old, twenty years old, or eighty years old. You can’t help but to think of all the things you should have done when you had the chance. Like, in my case, I should have defended the autistic kid at school this year instead of pretending I didn’t see the bullies being mean to him. I should have had more fun at sleepovers instead of being homesick. I should have played more cards with Grandpa instead of telling him that was for old people.
“Please God, let me live,” I said in my head right before passing out. “I’ll be good and I won’t take anything for granted ever again if you do.”
I knew that everyone else in my life would go on messing up, though. Dad and Mom would go back to fighting once I got better until they couldn’t take it anymore and got divorced. Grandma would go on baking Grandpa his favourite desserts even though he has diabetes. He was going to die soon himself because of it, and Grandma would hate herself forever.
I see things a lot more clearly now; some of it good and some of it bad. I’m going to keep all of those things to myself because if they couldn’t handle me almost dying, how are they going to handle the things that are going to happen? They won’t be able to; they’re going to need their own near-death experience for that.