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  • The Life-Long Aftereffects of My Childhood Near-Death Experience
  • Ingrid Honkala

In 1973, near the age of three, I fell into a five-foot deep 900 gallon above ground concrete tank of frigid water located on the patio of our home in Bogota, Colombia. The tank was used to collect water for hand-washing clothes. Next to the tank was a flat surface for scrubbing.

Both of my parents worked and would leave my two sisters and I (all under the age of three) in the care of a young maid who never paid much attention to us once they weren't home. One morning after my parents had left, my older sister and I decided to play catch across the tank. So we grabbed some stools, and my sister managed to reach the flat surface next to the tank while I kneeled precariously on the thin edge at the other side of it. What happened next is so vivid in my mind that I can still remember every detail of my experience as if it happened yesterday.

My sister and I were throwing the ball to each other when it slipped from my hands. As I tried to grab it from the water, I lost my balance and fell into the tank, which resembled a dark hole. The first feeling of the plunge was a shocking coldness. I didn't know how to swim and rapidly began sinking. My desperation was intense, as I couldn't breathe. I could feel my heart pounding in my head like a bass drum; with eyes open, I stared hopelessly into the darkness, unresponsive.

Then suddenly came a feeling of total relief. I was at peace and was no longer in anguish or feeling cold. My heart stopped pounding; everything turned absolutely still. Then, I noticed that a dim light, like a candle, had somehow begun glowing, just enough to illuminate my watery surroundings. I could see bubbles, and then behind them, I noticed a body suspended in the water. This was my own lifeless body, but instead of feeling surprised, I felt immense joy and freedom. No wonder I felt so relieved being liberated from the burden of my body, for I was a fragile, sickly child who always felt unwell. As I turned around, leaving my body behind, everything felt peaceful and bright; at last, I was free from the aches and pain I had carried since birth.

At once, I found myself in the maid's bedroom looking down on her lying on the bed listening to the radio, completely unaware of what happened to me. Next, I found myself looking at my mom walking to her bus stop several blocks from home. Right then, I became aware that I didn't have a defined form, and that time and distance had vanished for me. I could be anywhere, at any time. Not only was [End Page E10] I able to communicate with everything, but I was part of everything. It was like the "Wholeness" and I were one. As I sank into an atmosphere of pure bright light, I had the absolute awareness that prior to becoming a human, I was a being made of pure light, just as I was now.

While I was experiencing this blissful state of being, my mom suddenly sensed an intense feeling of dread and began running home. When she arrived, she knew exactly where to go, finding my oldest sister leaning over the tank, helplessly crying. As she pulled my lifeless body out of the water, she found no pulse. My lips were blue, my body was cold, and my skin was pale. Being trained in CPR, she pushed her fingers into my little chest and began blowing air into my lungs until I began choking and gurgling. Since I was so "far away" at the time, I have no recollection of being revived. What I do recall was that I began falling, as if I had jumped from the top of the tallest high-rise in the world! I was being sucked back into my body like a vacuum. When I felt the intense, agonizing cold of my body, I...