I was only eight years old, but I should have known better. I should have said, "No thanks," when my 16-year old sister, Grace, offered to teach me to swim. I should have realized that she only theoretically knew how to swim. She had really never gotten wet during her high school swimming classes. But she knew the various swimming styles and techniques.
She also realized that my handicapped mother had instilled a deep fear of water in us, mostly because my mom knew that she would not be able to ever go in water herself should an emergency arrive. In addition, one of my little cousins had recently drowned in Flushing Bay, N.Y.
My sister was determined that we face our swimming fears! There was no stopping her today; she had a look of fierce determination on her face. I knew better than to challenge her. She took me by the hand, and boldly announced, "Today is the day I will turn you into a swimmer!"
I had a deep feeling of foreboding, as we both sallied forth into Southampton Lake. It was a bright, sunny August day. I looked up and saw a beautiful blue sky, with majestic white clouds. But when I looked down into the lake, it was murky and dark. I thought to myself that I had never been able to see the bottom of this lake. It was always muddy and had a reputation of being "bottomless." How could that be? There had to be a bottom to it, right? It definitely could not go all the way to China, or wherever it is that "bottomless" lakes go.
With a feeling of dread that I was working hard to overcome, I allowed my bigger, bolder, and more courageous sister, to lead me into this nasty lake.
We walked slowly and carefully, hand-in-hand, into the water. She then announced, "We have to walk out farther, because it is still too shallow for real swimming…" What was she saying? What "real swimming?" The water was already up to my waist and getting higher by the second.
Just as I realized that we had already gone out too far, I stepped into what seemed like an incredibly deep hole…apparently, she did also, because as I started to submerge, I realized that she was no longer holding my hand. I felt myself going down…deeper and deeper into what seemed like an endless tunnel. It was dark, and when I couldn’t hold my breath any longer, I started breathing in water…more and more water was rushing in to my body.
First came intense panic, then overriding fear. I tried to call my mother, but of course that was useless. At a certain point, I started to see my young life passing before me: my school, my friends, the parrot who was my friend, my bike, and all the things I loved…my baby brother…God…this was all happening so fast…I thought about my dad, who had just had a heart attack…I remembered how ill both of my parents were and how they were struggling to keep us together as a family… When I realized the utter hopelessness of my current family life, and the looming challenges, I knew in a flash that I did not want to continue this existence. I was suddenly quite happy and relieved that it was going to end, and that I would be going back home to God.
At the point of complete physical surrender, when I no longer was struggling to breathe or to stay in my body, a very strange thing happened. A beautiful angel appeared and extended her hand to me. I was sure I was hallucinating, but I didn’t really care. I was happy to go with her.
Then she spoke to me…it was the most incredibly, melodious, angelic voice…she said, "Joyce, are you ready to come with me?" I said, "Oh, yes…let’s go!" But then she spoke again, and with a sweet, gentle laugh said, "It’s not your time…you can’t go with me now. You have so much work to do. You are going to have a long life, get married, and have two children. You have made a contract before your birth to do God’s work for a very long time. That’s why you have to go back. Don’t worry so much about your parents. They are also going to live a long time, and things will improve. Not everything will be as bleak as they seem to be right now. So, when you take my hand, you will be back on the beach, and you will be fine."
With that, I took her hand, and realized that my cousin George, who had been relaxing on the beach, had jumped into the lake and pulled both my sister and me out. He did some form of resuscitation on both of us and left us to cough a bit and dry out. That angel’s words were correct. My parents went on to live many years, and things slowly, but surely, did improve at home. She was also right about my future. I had two children, and my service to God continues to this day.
I’ve had many metaphysical experiences in my life. Most are impossible to understand and explain. I’ve had many out-of-body experiences, and have done a great deal of astral travel. I believe it is something we all can do. In all likelihood, most of the flying dreams we have are actually astral travel. Most of us have experiences that seem exceptional, or other-worldly. Remember the old adage, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."
Prayer and meditation open the door to greater understanding, and bonding with the highest angelic forces. The primary lesson in near-death experiences (NDEs) is to know that death should not be feared. It is merely a doorway to higher understanding and love in the universe. The earth is only a temporary place of soul growth and experience. The most important lesson is to love one another.