Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Diving is for real" at Hungry Mother State Park

Me on the right in black, my friend Ginger Dutton on the left.
This photo was taken around the time of the
incident at Hungry Mother. I think this is even
the same bathing suit.
Some kid in Nebraska claims he died and went to heaven during an operation. The family has written a book called Heaven Is For Real (they have now written a children's book about it and are making the rounds on TV). His parents swear he is telling the truth because he met his "sister" in heaven, a miscarriage his mother had years before the boy didn't know about. He said John the Baptist and Jesus were kind of blue and sparkling, and his grandfather had huge wings.

I really hope there is a heaven. I don't believe in the christian heaven, but I hope we go somewhere and do exactly what we love. I always liked what the priest in The Exorcist said (I'm paraphrasing): "Heaven is a little bar where I'm the headliner every night, and they love me!" Then Regan pisses on the oriental carpet. I like the idea of heaven being tailored to each person.

This kid's little tale of heaven reminds me of a strange experience I had as a kid.

I was sent to Lutheran Church Camp at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia around 1976. Every day, after sitting in the woods listening to dulcimers and hearing about Jesus, we were taken to the green lake with its sandy shore. Just beyond the floating ropes was a diving platform with two boards: one regular sized diving board and one high dive. A lifeguard lounged in a chair beside the high dive and would give encouragement to the kids from his lazy suntan comfort. I really wanted to dive off the high board.

Every time I climbed to the top, I walked to the edge of the board, but chickened out at the last second and just jumped off. This went on all day. Once when I climbed the ladder, the lifeguard was encouraging me to dive while spreading thick white Hawaiian Tropic on his arms. I stood at the edge of the board feeling the rough sparkling surface under my feet, and then, I blacked out. When I opened my eyes, I saw my shadow on the green water, and I was soaring down in a perfect dive. I even remember seeing my toes were pointed my arms were straight over my head, my hands were pressed strongly together in prayer. My body sliced through the green water at Hungry Mother.

It was only a couple of seconds that I blacked out, but something took over my mind and body completely. I can't explain it. Nothing like that has happened to me since. For a moment, when I saw my shadow on the water, I thought I had died.

The day after I got home from camp, my ear hurt so bad that I couldn't open my mouth. The doctor said I had the worst case of swimmer's ear he had ever seen. Doing the dive had not helped because swimmer's ear is caused by water pressure. I have never been so sick in my life. I spent the entire summer on the coach sipping chicken noodle soup through a straw.

Did I pay a physical price for coming in contact with something otherworldly?

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