Water & Death || words by Birralee Hassen

Yesterday when I was surfing, I got held down for quite a while. A flash of light, and the words filled my head “I’m scared of water”. I came up gasping for air and as it flooded my lungs I felt shock at the realisation. My right eardrum swelled as I paddled away from where it was breaking and away from any humans that entered my line of vision. Hand on my cheek I felt intense pain, and my thoughts were taken back to a time when I was little, maybe three or four, where I couldn’t swim without floaties and I had been in a river, holding onto a floating log when I had slipped off and started sinking to the bottom. Brown water filled my eyes and my lungs as my fingers scrambled across the slimy rocks on the riverbed. My dad had pulled me out and lay me on the banks, still wearing his joggers that were leaking water, leaving wet patches on the dry rock. “I’m never going near the water again!” I had told my parents passionately. I remember feeling embarrassed the next week as we left the indoor swimming pool for our swimming lessons. I had completely forgotten about the incident and I could hear the adults laughing about how I had just jumped straight back in the water. My face burnt from the change in temperature as we left the steamy pool complex and headed into the Canberra winters night.  How could I forget such a horrific experience so easily?


“You had a shock, I’m seeing a shock, around age seven” Ra had said during a Theta healing session. I couldn’t think for the life of me what that shock was. But I knew yesterday that I was close to figuring it out. Maybe it’s not water, I’m not scared of water. I love water. I’m scared of what water can do to me. I’m scared of drowning. It was like little pieces of the puzzle were coming together, I was joining things together to make sense of a current situation. I don’t want to die. I say that I’m not scared of dying. And I’m not, I don’t think. But I am scared of not being alive. I have toyed with the idea of death, a comforting reminder that if I wanted to I don’t have to be here. But it’s a choice and for me the choice of living is far more appealing, even with the intensities that accompany it. I know that death is very close, there have been times where I have danced so close to death that if I wanted to, I could reach out and brush it with my fingertips. One of my biggest secrets for many years was how often I lusted after death. Now an awareness that used to be a fear; of just how easily reached death may be is what makes me feel the most alive.


Another memory, one that has not surfaced since the day that it happened, appears in my head. It slips through the cracks of my mind and I find it hard to grasp onto, but the beginnings of it are there, I worry that if I start to tug it will unravel a much larger roll of yarn. I had been playing on the mini jetty that was built of from the banks of our dam into the centre. Leaning over the edge, I had been tugging on one of the many reed roots that made their way from the earth through the water and into the sky. I leaned too far and I fell in, my limbs becoming tangled as I thrashed my arms and opened my mouth for life giving breath but was only greeted with the taste of earthy water. A flash of light, and I stopped resisting.


Swap fear for awareness. I have a fear of water can change to I am aware of water. I’m aware of the changing currents and tides and the many ways in which it can flow. It can be calm, with little wind ripples dancing across the surface, or it can be wild, swirling with a vengeance that could never be contained. I am aware of death. I am aware of the finality that it holds, at least for an individual lifetime. It is uncomfortable, but we can train ourselves to make friends with fear. Fear when viewed through the lens of awareness can be a wonderful thing, a motivator into the vast unknown and limitless frontiers of the self.

Birralee Hassen