Friday, August 26, 2011

A Facebook message from Paul Newson

Dear Boo

Sorry it's taken so long to get around to this; a friend's computer went wrong and left her with no internet and it took me forever to track down the problem - but I did get a strong sense of achievement and satisfaction when I finally fixed it. I hate to be outsmarted by inanimate objects.

Anywho, 20 years ago I used to drink a lot of alcohol on a daily basis and one night I was walking (staggering) home and decided to take a short cut by the river. Somehow I followed the wrong path and ended up not knowing where I was; later I found out it was near the pikey site where there's a smaller waterway of some kind, dunno if it's a tributary or a drainage ditch or what but it's there. I incorrectly deduced that if I hop across this ditch to the opposite bank, I'd be able to get home quicker (it's actually the opposite direction that I needed to go) so that's what I did. The only trouble was, what I thought was the opposite bank was, in fact, the reeds in the centre of the ditch so I found myself under the water, which was annoying but didn't really bother me until I realised that I was stuck. Later it turned out that it was the mud at the bottom that was holding me down.

The surface of the water was literally a couple of inches above my head but I still wasn't too bothered 'cause there were plenty of brambles within easy reach for me to haul myself out. Unfortunately, I did not have anything like enough strength to free myself from the suction of the mud. Now I was beginning to worry. I pulled on those thick bramble branches with all my strength, stripping them of their thorns in the process, but could not move myself any closer to the surface. My chest was beginning to hurt from holding my breath and the exertion. I've never been a person to panic so when it finally dawned on me that I was not going to pull myself out of the water, I searched my pockets for a pen or anything that I could use to make a breathing tube but found nothing. I tried again to pull myself out, knowing deep down that this was futile as my strength was fading fast, my muscles were hurting and it felt as if there was a fire in my chest. At this point I was certain that I'd already drawn my last breath. I clearly remember thinking to myself "If I breath in the water, it'll all be over more quickly but it might be even more painful than it is already". I wanted to breath the water but decided that I would hold my breath for as long as I possibly could before the pain became unbearable. That took all my willpower; the urge to take a deep breath was almost overwhelming, despite the knowledge that doing so would result in a slightly earlier death. I managed to hold on.

Just as I thought that I would no longer to be able to stop myself from taking that final, fatal breath of water, the pain went away. It disappeared very quickly but it faded rather than snapped out. The closest I can get to describing how it happened is to say that all of a sudden the pain gradually faded. As the pain went, so did the urge to breathe. From this point, drawing breath would have taken a conscious effort much the same as holding your breath does under normal circumstances. Any fear that I may have had earlier was now gone. I accepted the fact that I was dying and felt at peace. It was very pleasant.

I have absolutely no idea how long I remained in that state, time no longer had any meaning for me. Not only did I lose all sense of time, I lost all sense of the passage of time. To my mind there was no difference between a millisecond and a millenium. We've all heard it said that drowning people see there whole lives flash before their eyes, which is kind of what happened to me but a woefully inadequate description. My mind was floating and drifting and I was certainly hallucinating and part of those hallucinations were like memories come to life. It was all there but it was no longer a course of events taking place one after the other - there was no longer any time. I really can't convey that experience to anyone in words but the closest analagy that I can come up with is to say that normal life is like reading a written account of some event such as a battle; there is a sequence of words going from start to finish, whereas what I experienced was like looking at a painting or tapestry describing the same event - all the information is presented at once but still makes sense. It felt like an eternity although reason dictates that it couldn't have been more than a few minutes. It was so incredibly pleasant and peaceful, those memories/hallucinations were my own experiences but I was observing as an outsider.

At some point during this, it occured to me that my wife would be worried and it might be a long time before my corpse was discovered so I lifted my right arm above the water and kind of leaned it back a bit, locking my elbow, in the hope that it would remain there and somebody, possibly a dog walker, would see it in the morning. It took an immense effort to lift my arm; it didn't feel heavy but I was incredibly weak, not to mention "floaty in the head", so it was a huge struggle. At some point after this, the thought of my wife worrying about me made me think about my children having to grow up without a daddy. This was my miracle. The knowledge that I had put my own children in that situation made me so angry with myself. Anger is something I rarely suffer from but on this occasion I was absolutely steaming, stinking mad at myself and was determined that I wouldn't allow that to happen to the kids which caused a massive adrenaline rush.

I grabbed at the now smooth bramble branches again and pulled with considerably more strength than I actually possess. I sensed myself getting closer to the surface of the water, one more inch and I'd be able to breathe air again. This spurred me on.

The very next memory I have is laying face down on the bank with my legs still in the water. What happened between those two points isn't difficult to figure out but I have never had any recollection whatsoever of those events. I must have passed out but I don't remember regaining consciousness (nor did I at the time). I knew I was on the bank and I had a sense of having been on the bank for some time but there is no memory at all of getting onto the bank, or passing out, or coming round. It was as if I had ceased to exist for a time and then re-appeared.

During the time that I was drifting away, there were no bright lights for me, no angels beconing me, nothing like that at all. There was no time either, just eternity.

You would think that an experience like that would make a person change his whole life. Not me. I stayed on my self-destruct course for a further twelve or thirteen years. I don't know all of the effects the event had on me because I can't tell whether I would have done/thought the same things anyway. Having said that, I really don't get scared when I'm in dangerous situations even though I've been through some things that aught to have caused serious laundry issues of the underwear kind.

Now I've typed all that lot out, I'm feeling very reflective. Maybe I should tell the story more often. :)

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