“Why are you… grumpy?” I asked a rather serious looking Jimmy as we sat for my drum lesson.
“Oh… I’m not. I’ve just… been through something,” he said, “I’ve just, had a life-changing experience.”
My friend Jimmy, is a marvelous human being… tenacious, caring, courageous, strong-willed, multi-talented — professional drummer, C.P.R. certified P.A.D.I. rescue diver, martial arts expert, caring and loving father, dependable in his past marriage, young at heart, deep in spiritual awareness, a cheerleader for truth, integrity and sincerity, jovial in nature, adventurous and daring, down-to-earth in style, sensitive towards others, and solid in character… with the bonus gift of being a good-looking Italian man. And Jimmy just recently added “monk” to his repertoire of attributes because Jimmy, just recently, faced death head-on… and conquered it with his power of persistent divine intention.
Here is the story…
Jimmy is affectionately called “McGyver-diver” by his girlfriend Christina because of his disciplined choice of gearing up with a thorough range of all potentially necessary safety gadgets on his scuba diving suit. And so on this particular Friday as Jimmy, Christina and the master diver on board a ship carrying many vacationers, got ready to dive into the deep blue sea off a coast in Hawaii, the ship’s young, well-built, good looking 23-year-old captain (the youngest captain employed by the travel-tour agency) just couldn’t help rag on our Jimmy.
Thing is, even I confess, Jimmy has a peculiar warmth in his expressions and a way about him that makes you want to rag on him while at the same time feeling a whole lot of camaraderie with him. He brings out the wise-ass, teasing bully in me quite often and he makes me smile and chuckle, without him knowing his own effect. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this Jimmy-effect was rubbing off on the captain that day too.
“What you got there? What’s with the get-up?” laughed the young captain.
Jimmy just smiled, a bit hassled by the teasing, as Jimmy tends to get… and so, of course, invites more teasing…
“What’s with the long pants old man? Getting too cold for you down there?” chuckled the captain.
“Alright alright…” said Jimmy, as he shook his head, and exited… into the magnificence of the liquid blue world below.
“Twenty-three feet below is where the boat is anchored to a secure holding” Jimmy explained later, “and we were instructed to swim over the holding ledge and then into the darkness beneath. So we did. At around 70 feet below I saw a white tip reef shark and then a large octopus. It was seriously incredible.”
I could just imagine it, having scuba dived a couple times in the year 2000 and remembering how excited I was when I saw a moving starfish, only as big as my hand, and then swimming by a baby sting ray! Encouraged by my then boyfriend, I had chosen to get trained and certified in scuba-diving because of a fear I had of the sea (I’m guessing partly because of watching a frightening true-to-life movie when I was a kid about some of the dangers in “the cruel sea.” I also had a close call with drowning in the waters of Goa in 1994.) The first amazing discovery I made when I took to some deep waters as a scuba diver was the magnificence of kelp, which is an intricate, dense yet forgiving, dancing underwater forest. On the surface it just looks like flimsy bits of sea-weed and leaves. I remember getting nervous as I got entangled in them once, but as soon as I stopped struggling, they seemed to graciously release me. The ocean is seriously an incredible world— beautiful, potentially dangerous, eye-opening, and mind-expanding. It is a prime example of how much there is to discover beneath the surface impressions of our realities… and how much beauty and depth there actually is to life if we dare to explore it with courage and respect.
So, back to Jimmy…
Upon using up his oxygen tank’s capacity, Jimmy returned to the boat and started changing out of his suit. Christina, having 300 pounds more air left in her oxygen tank, continued her underwater exploration and returned to the boat about 20 minutes later …
“Jimmy! I saw a Giant Manta Ray! I saw a Giant Manta Ray!” she announced excitedly.
“What! You saw a Giant Manta Ray! I can’t believe you stayed back and saw that without me!” he said, half jokingly, half pissed off and jealous, showing more of the latter.
“Ah forget you!” huffed Christina and walked away.
Jimmy continued drying himself off only to be distracted by some commotion from the far end of the boat where Christina had gone. He headed over. As he arrived at the back of the vessel, he sensed a tense and apprehensive atmosphere and watched a crowd gathering very quickly. Then, he witnessed a body being hoisted up from the water. A lifeless, deformed and completely bloated, drowned body was now lying on deck.
The air fast filled with fear. An RN and the dive master immediately responded to the situation. They checked for a pulse and breathing. There was neither. They urgently started administering C.P.R.
Jimmy watched with fast growing concern and felt the need to jump in solely due to his highly trained rescue and C.P.R. experience and his growing recognition of what was required if the lifeless body had any chance of revival. But he did not want to offend any authorities in charge.
“I am a rescue-diver,” said Jimmy to the RN, “is it okay if I step in?”
“Yes!” replied the registered nurse, as she allowed Jimmy to take over.
Jimmy then made the same request of the dive master on behalf of Jordan, a fellow vacationer, certified and highly skilled in C.P.R. The dive master also graciously, willingly and immediately complied.
Jordan took over administering the breaths while Jimmy pumped on the lifeless body intently, being careful not to cause any rib damage in spite of the intensity of the thrusts required given the body’s condition.
“Is there any oxygen on board this ship?,” yelled out Jimmy.
“Yes!” came a response and an oxygen tank was immediately brought on deck and kept ready, with hope for its use.
Well coordinated efforts continued for several long minutes as Jimmy and Jordan methodically performed C.P.R.
“No pulse Jimmy, still no pulse,” informed Jordan as he periodically checked for signs of life.
There was now a continuous outflow of sea-water from the body’s nasal cavity… which turned into mucous mixed with sea-water, then a large amount of frothing and foaming and eventually… even blood. The lifeless eyes on the body remaining fixated skyward as Jimmy pumped and pumped and pumped in perfect skilled rhythm, while Jordan switched between administering breaths and clearing large amounts of sea-water, mucous and blood oozing out of the nasal cavity and the mouth.
“It was unbelievable how much water the body had absorbed,” Jimmy later tells me, “it honestly seemed like gallons upon gallons.”
It was now a good 6-7 minutes into the dedicated, focused efforts to revive the dead man. And still, no sign of life.
“Does anyone belong to this man? Anyone come with him? Anyone know who he is?” asked Jimmy between pumps.
Several moments of silence followed.
Then, a young man moved forward. This is the man who had dived in and brought up the body after he heard an eye-witness swimmer yell out that a man had just drowned and was lying face down in coral on the anchor-holding 23 feet below. Jimmy found out later that this young man is the dead man’s brother.
“He’s… he’s…he’s… the captain… of this boat,” said the stunned young man.
Jimmy couldn’t believe his eyes. What lay before him had no resemblance what-so-ever to the young, fit, stud of a man who was ragging on him earlier. This deformed corpse lying dead before him with eyes hauntingly wide open was the last person Jimmy interacted with before he dove into the magnificent splendor of a beautiful ocean that had now become the cause of a horribly unforgiving ugly death.
Jimmy pumped with unending persistence and skill.
Jordan shared his oxygen with absolute proficiency.
And every single person on that boat prayed… asking God to have mercy.
“Stay with me buddy, you can do this, you’re young, you’re strong, you can do this, do not give up,” said Jimmy as he leaned over and whispered into the ear of a man who had now been dead for over 10 minutes.
“No heartbeat Jimmy,” informed Jordan.
“Still no pupil response,” updated the nurse.
“Keep wiping off the stuff Jordan,” responded Jimmy to a diligent Jordan who continued sharing his oxygen as he wiped the captain’s face.
“Every now and then I thought I would see something in his eyes or I would think I heard a gasp,” says Jimmy later, “but I wasn’t sure if it was just a mechanical reflex of the body or a sign of life. He was so young. And he was just making fun of me a little while ago.”
“Breathe in from your nose, breathe out through your mouth, breathe in through your nose, breathe out through your mouth,” Jimmy instructed, as he again leaned into the ear of the young captain in the hopes that he would listen in death.
Christina returned from the front of the boat after a 60 second intense praying session to find the dead body turned blue, lips turned white, Jordan administering air, and Jimmy, still pumping.
“The two thoughts I had as I watched Jimmy over the boy were a deep worry because I know how sensitive Jimmy is and so I prayed to dear god to please help because it will deeply devastate Jimmy if this boy doesn’t pull through. And the other thought was… I am so glad its Jimmy working on this boy because I know how he his… I know how stubborn and strong he can be and he will not give up.”
But there was still no sign of life in the young captain.
It had now been anywhere from 13 to 15 minutes since the lifeless body was pulled out of the water.
The crowd was now collectively one thought… one heart… and one silent voice in deep prayer, deep shock, and deep sorrow. It just wasn’t looking good.
“I’ve got a pulse,” said Jordan.
The young captain’s eyes flickered and…
“Hhhuh,” came the sweet, miraculous sound of… a gasp.
Then… another inhale.
“That’s it buddy, keep breathing… keep breathing…” encouraged Jimmy.
He did… as best he could.
The oxygen mask was strapped onto the face of the young, barely coherent, ravaged captain of the vessel.
Not a single person would have dared to stop praying in that moment… this time in gratitude.
Jimmy, in the midst of being embraced and patted for what he did, was only now slowly coming to terms with what happened in those last infinite 15 minutes…
“I’m sorry I asked to step in,” he cried with humility to the RN and the dive master.
They of course were nothing short of absolutely, completely and genuinely grateful that he did.
But the ordeal wasn’t entirely over. The coast guards were an hour away and the helicopter that had arrived to take the captain to the hospital could not get in close enough to lift him into the air. Jimmy had to perform the unthinkable act of placing the captain back into the water and strapping him to a basket that would then be pulled out into the ocean from where it would be airlifted into the helicopter.
“He couldn’t speak but I could see in his eyes as I brought his feet to the edge of the boat and close to the water that he was begging me to PLEASE not put him back in the ocean,” says Jimmy, “and I couldn’t believe I had to do this to the kid.”
“Its okay buddy, I have to hand you over now, its okay,” Jimmy said to him.
As the helicopter air-lifted the young man, Jimmy had one last unexpected brush with danger. A surf board that got entangled in the helicopter line, whipped out of the ocean, smacked Jimmy in the head and caused him to bite deep into his tongue, leaving him with a swollen tongue and a persistent headache for the next several days.
Jimmy went to see the young sleeping captain at the hospital the next day and was informed that all test results indicated that due to the high quality of C.P.R. administered, the young man is expected to have a full recovery with no brain damage.
“All I could do after he was hoisted up into the helicopter,” says a moist-eyed Jimmy, “was go into the bathroom and just… just… just…”
“Of course” I said, “break down,” as I experienced a mini version of it in that moment myself.
“I completely lost it,” he said, “I can still see his eyes wide open, staring up at the sky. And as a diver, I know I will return to the sea, and even though I know why what happened to him happened when he dove deep into the water without an oxygen tank (the eye witness had described the whole scene), I know I will have to deal with it when I go back into the water. It reminds you of your mortality. And so… no… I’m not grumpy Seema… I’ve just been walking around like a monk these days. And taking Advil everyday because of this headache, plus I haven’t really been able to eat or drink properly until yesterday because my tongue was swollen… and now… I’m going to teach you some drumming… which is,” he says with a smile, “just as important.”
And in a strange way, it is. Because this could or could not be our last few moments in the physical form, but whatever we do, it is important to make the best of it… to live it tenaciously and whole-heartedly… because we can. There is great meaning, joy and reward in this in itself.
I have a suspicion that the Universe did my buddy Jimmy a favor by hitting him with that surf board and leaving him with a couple of painful distractions. Jimmy faced death and conquered it with immortal strength and gumption… he refused to give up. Not because there was any logic or science or rationale to keep trying beyond 12 minutes, but because Jimmy believes in and values the spirit in a human being and the young guy who was so full of life only moments before had a lot to experience and offer in spirit. All the same, it was a tremendous experience for Jimmy… an overwhelmingly powerful ordeal to have gone through on this physical earth. And so the universe has its own ways of helping us land back into our shoes (like with a knock to our head and a bite in our tongue, or other such minor physical effects) so that we can settle back into our mortal self… ever-transformed… even if as a “monk”, who never forgets his deeper truth and capacity.
“I just feel so glad to know I now have the opportunity to tell him ‘Remember me? Remember you were ragging on me?’” smiles Jimmy.
Jimmy understands the importance of grabbing hold of something valuable in life and sticking to it. The stubbornness, sensitivity and strength in Jimmy’s spirit was, I’m guessing, as strong in him at 23 as it is today at 52, if not increasingly stronger in order that he courageously take on growing challenges, and this is what was instrumental in valuing and saving a young man’s life.
“I know it was a divine force at work,” he says, “I was just the hands.”
I have to add, he was just Jimmy, and Jimmy just doesn’t consider giving up when he cares, not even for a minute… this quality helped save a life on September 18th, 2009.
It was the immortal faith of Jimmy’s spirit that spoke to him as he spoke to the dead man’s immortal spirit. And if we each have the faith and courage to transcend our fears with an immortal strength — as Jimmy did — and allow for miracles to happen, I believe we will feel, deep within us, an applause of the ultimate and infinite celebration. Our deepest confirmation. Our heaven on earth itself.
We are each capable of looking mortality (the under riding, ultimate, subconscious fear of many humans) right in the face, and at all our other little mortal fears driven by our identification with our mortality right in the face, and defying them… because we are, in our absolute surrender to the moment of now, examples of our ultimate fearless self… our one truth as immortal spirits inhabiting mortal forms, capable of amazing feats in every area of our lives… capable of living through our highest creative self… capable of allowing for life-transforming experiences… and by birth-right, being powerful and deliberate creators of destinies that evolve from courageous choices, moment by budding moment.
Here’s to not sweating the small stuff.
Here’s to the Jimmy in each of us… taking on responsibility with deep faith and presence.
Here’s to challenging ourselves to be gracious and grander in our performance as humans.
Here’s to acknowledging the beauty in our lives and appreciating every breath and every soul.
Here’s to accepting that we are all special and have a lot to offer each other.
Here’s to practicing love with the intent to love.
And here’s to the miracles that come from sincerely, faithfully, creatively and courageously living each moment of our lives in awareness of our deeper-higher truth— our sweet magnificence— our inner, empowering, fearless capacities – our heroic energy – our truest and untainted spirit identity.