The Secret Lagoon
They say that energy is neither created nor destroyed, it simply
changes forms. They also claim that your body is a bundle of
energy. So then by deduction, can it be said that we are all
energy and when we pass, our energy is transformed? That is after
all, the basis of reincarnation.
This story is about such a phenomenon. If you believe there is a greater power at work somewhere in our universe and that power has the ability to do things the mind cannot comprehend or even begin to understand then I invite you to this story. If you are uncertain of the unknown, open your heart and mind and let the story warm you.
There is a quaint little known fishing town in Southwest Florida called Matlacha. It is nestled on the Gulf coast side of Southwest Florida. Most people have never heard of it and most people will never come to visit there unless they know someone or are in one of the hustling and bustling nearby towns and hear the urban tales of the clairvoyant old lady and her amazing creatures.
I happened across this quiet little fishing town about a year ago when I was down in Florida visiting friends who live in nearby Cape Coral. They had an unearthly experience of a lifetime and shared it with me. Their experience was unbelievable at first and I was as skeptical as anyone could be. I am one of those that need the tangible aspect of a story to believe or understand it. I need to be able to see it or experience it myself if it doesn't sound logical. They chose only me to tell their story to at this point. They explained the absolute necessity of this detail. They were allowed to only share their story with two people. I was one of the lucky two they chose. They had not made a decision on their second person; it was more difficult for them to choose.
I wanted to believe their story. I wanted to with all my heart. My heart was aching from a very bad year for my family. My parents were both gone now. I lost my mother to ongoing illnesses and watched her dwindle and writhe for the better part of a year It tears you up inside to watch your parent suffer like that. Shortly after that, my sister passed after eighteen months of fighting lung cancer. She died after a long and torturous disease. It was inhumane how the cancer robbed her of the best years of her life. She spent a lifetime working on a plan that would have allowed her to retire and watch her two young grand children grow.
She was looking forward to spending her days helping her daughter with her new born baby. She was diagnosed three weeks before retirement and instead of preparing and enjoying the excitement of her first grandchild with her daughter, her pregnant daughter spent all three trimesters taking care of her mother. After my niece gave birth, my sister was simply too weak to assist in anything or enjoy her grand baby. She fought for a long period of time but it was not quality time. Just before she passed she had to bare the news of our mother's passing. She should not have had to go through this in her lifetime. No one should have to experience what she did. Watching all these events over the past year was what made it a tough year for me. It sounds selfish but it took its toll on me too. Heavy hearted, I went about my day to day business knowing the ache of what life can throw you. This is why I wanted to believe in my deat friend's story and why they so easily chose me as one of their two.
When they told me of their experience I was of course skeptical but as their experience unfolded to me, I realized my friends would not share their story with me unless there was some truth to it. I realized this and I began to weep. I promised that I would follow their instructions and do exactly as they told me the very next morning.
I spent the night restlessly tossing and turning with thoughts and dreams racing through my mind. I slept almost not a wink the whole night. I awoke at first daylight, raced through my morning routine and hit the road for my half hour drive as directed the night before.
I drove down the long and winding two lane road from Cape Coral to the fishing village of Matlacha. Pine Island Road was etched into a very dense field of mangroves. For several miles there was nothing but a wall of mangroves on either side. The mangroves formed a buffer wall between the manmade road and the Gulf of Mexico waterways. Beyond the mangrove walls laid mile after mile of waterways, dotted islands scattered about and finally the giant Gulf of Mexico waters. Every few moments you could see a break in the mangroves and the beauty lept from behind. It looked so peaceful and magical.
After what seemed like an hour of driving time the mangroves diminished revealing the small village and the small homes that lay up and down the main road. There was a drawbridge just down a spell that separated the main town from an area of homes built up and down Pine Island Road with a small few side roads meandering here and there but all leading to the Gulf waters. The traffic really dwindled once I got over the drawbridge. Most of the fishing village of Matlacha existed before you went over the drawbridge.
As instructed, down I slowed and looked for a small dirt road between two old two story clapboard homes. I was looking for the street name Warm Sand Rd. Within several minutes of creeping down the road looking in between the old worn stilted homes I found it. They were right, it was very difficult to find. If you did not know it was there, it would have looked like someone's driveway. The dust covered small road sign was hidden behind a small nest of garden palm trees. It seemed hidden with intent.
I crept down the dirt road a few hundred yards and there was the home as described. It was another small two story stilted wood clapboard home weathered and faded by the hot Florida sun and salty gulf air. The elements in these parts of the country sure made for some rustic looking buildings.
I parked the car in the dirt driveway that swept along the whole of the front area of the home. There were only a few cars parked there. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary with the front of this home. It looked like any other home in this small quiet village. I got out of the car and slowly made my way up the stairs to the second story front entrance. The lower floor stilted area was completely enclosed giving it the impression that the home was actually two full stories rather than one floor on stilts.
I rang the doorbell and waited. The whole front area of the second floor of the home was a long porch that stretched from one side to the other. While awaiting an answer
at the front door I walked slowly to one end of the porch and peered around the corner of the house. More mangroves. The home appeared to be completely nestled in a thicket of tightly woven mangroves.
I walked back to the front door to ring again and as I raised my right hand to ring the bell once more , the door opened a crack. Peering out of the slit between the old weather beaten windowless door and the old weather beaten door jam, I saw a slight frail woman peer out. She held the door slightly opened and spoke in a soft gentle voice.
"Yes? May I help you sir? " she whispered.
"I was told to come and see you so you could help with some healing." I whispered.
The old woman opened the door halfway and asked me to step in. "Of course. Please come in. Your visitors have been awaiting your arrival all morning." She whispered in a kind voice.
I stepped into the front hallway of her home. She quickly stepped behind me and closed and bolted the heavy windowless door. The woman was a warm hearted gypsy with deep sad eyes. She has carried a thousand lifetimes of hurt in those eyes but her soul was vibrant.
I quickly gazed around my surroundings. The interior of the home matched the exterior with the rustic village feel but also mixed with gypsy flare.
She spoke in that soft kind warming voice again. "I will not waste any time with informalities and introductions. You are not here to see me, your guests are downstairs. Please follow me. She stepped ahead and down a hallway that stopped at a door. She opened the door and pointed the way. "Go on down there. You will know what to do when you get there."
Hesitating and knowing I could not turn back now, I took my first step down the stairs. I stopped and looked back.
The lonely woman in her sweeping gypsy dress looked at me with warmth in her eyes and said "Go on down, it's ok. It's all good down there. Nothing to fear. I will be down shortly to see how you are doing. Ok? Go young man." she whispered and gently touched my shoulder. I felt a calm warmth fill my body when she touched me.
I slowly descended the stairs, carefully, not knowing what to expect but feeling very excited. I got to the bottom step and awed at what appeared in front of me. The basement and back of the home completely opened up to a tropical sandy lagoon with open blue waters, blue sky and dolphins abound everywhere ! The panoramic view was breathtaking. The back of the house was completely open. There was a small sandy area under the house which led out to an oasis of beautiful palm trees framing a stunning sandy white beach. The water was glistening and clear. The colors were so amplified it was almost like it was a Hollywood set that was over lit. The water was clear and very vibrant. The sand was too. My eyes needed to readjust to the brightness of this heavenly canvas that unfolded before me.
Once I adjusted and taken in the splendor of this place I looked around to get a feel for my new surroundings. There was a lone woman about thirty years of age and what appeared to be her mother sitting in the water waste high and hugging and crying and kissing three baby dolphins and a momma dolphin. I watched for a moment silently. They did not know I was there and I didn't want them to see me while their emotions were so exposed.
I continued to gaze around the canvas and then like I automatically knew what to do next, I walked over to an open area. There were three dolphins waiting for me. The old gypsy suddenly and out of nowhere was standing beside me now. She introduced me to my sister, my mother and my father. She introduced them to me by name. She said "this is your sister Julie, your mother Rose and your father Wilfred. They came to say hello and spend time with you." Before she could explain this to me, somehow I already knew. I could somehow tell in their eyes they were my recently deceased sister, mother and also my father who passed years before. I slowly climbed into the water and walked out into an open area of chest deep crystal clear water where the larger dolphins had better mobility.
My mind immediately became clear and void of the sadness I had been carrying over the past months. The dolphins began to make their clicking dolphin sounds but it was coming across to me in the English language. I was able to understand them as they spoke in their dolphin language. They told me they missed me and loved me and that their afterlife was just as beautiful as their former life with me. They spoke of how their hearts were heavy with the absence of the rest of our family and me.
They explained that everything would be ok. Everyone who is missing and grieving over their lost ones will see them again, and for those that truly understood this, would be lifted of the heavy heavy sadness. They helped me understand that it is only a short passage of time before we are together again. They helped with healing the pain and emptiness I was feeling inside.
I had so many questions for them. I had to know how it was for them. How was the pain when they passed on? What was it like? They tried to explain how it felt right at the moment of passing and then passing over. All they could say was the pain was extremely brief and then bliss.
Hours passed as I communicated and reunited with my lost loved ones. After a few hours, the old woman somehow appeared beside me in the water. Out of nowhere it seemed and then she was right beside me and whispered into my ear that I could stay as long as I wanted but there were rules that must be adhered to. She asked if we could step out of the water and go to shore to speak for a few moments.
We walked to the sandy edge and sat at the waterline next to each other. We gazed out at the blazing water and sunshine. There somehow appeared to be a dozen or so people in the water here and there. Dolphins were everywhere too. The old woman broke our silent gaze and spoke.
She explained in her kind soulful words, "When you walk out the front door you are never able to return again. You may only share this place with one person in your lifetime and no more, so choose this people wisely." She went on. Her eyes were deep and full of compassion as she spoke. She apologized for the rule of one person and explained that she could not afford to have her place become general knowledge due to the overwhelming attention it would gather. It would be too much and the home, the dolphins and the magical portal would all be destroyed. She did not want to become a circus and did not want the media to crush what she had. So for every person who leaves here, they are only allowed to tell one other person. We cannot grow any larger and allow any more people here without raising suspicion. Currently several hundred people make the trip here each week and that is about all that I can handle.
"We have been here for many many years and intend to be here for many many more." She said smiling at me.
"There are more than just you here?" I asked and looked around.
"Oh heavens yes!" she said with a lighthearted tone. "See that large pod of dolphins off in the distance? Those are my parents, my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I have almost lost count of how many we are now." she smiled and waved into the beyond at the dolphins in the sunny distance. "I have outlived them all…. at least here on earth. My family has all passed over and they are all here with me now." she paused, "that's how long I have been here. Yup, about five generations are out there. Please don't ask me how I am still here and how this all began." She continued, "Just know that I was chosen and I accepted. Let's leave it at that."
I looked around the area in her beach-like backyard and could see that her area somehow opened up to a very private tropical and magical lagoon. There were people everywhere. It was overwhelming to see these people reunited with their lost loved ones. My eyes came upon the two women I first saw when I arrived there. They were still playing with the three small dolphins. The younger woman was just walking ashore to take a break, I assumed. She sat at the water's edge and looked over at me. I smiled and waved to her. She was about to sit but decided to walk the few extra steps to where I was sitting. The old gypsy lady introduced the two of us to each other. She explained to each of us who our family was who was frolicking in the water as well. It would turn out that the three small dolphins and one larger dolphin were her younger sister and three nieces that were taken several months ago by a violent car crash. She never got to say good bye and tell them how much she loved them and how proud she was of her baby sister and her sister's three young children.
I spent the next six hours in the warm sun and water talking to my sister, mother and father about everything. My father had never met my son as he passed on years before he was born. When he passed, he didn't even know I was having a child. They knew through my sister but wanted to hear everything from me and see my joy and proud expressions. I had my smart phone with me and had left it and a few personal belongings at the shoreline and promised that I would pull up some pictures to show him. I talked in depth to my sister and told them how empty we all felt and how much she was loved and missed by everyone. I explained that I would do my best to get the chain of visitor's right for them and they would get to see everyone. My sister wanted to see her grandchildren so bad again. My mother and father wanted to see everyone but asked about seeing my son first. I said that I would rather wait until he was older. There were others that would understand this place and appreciate it more than my one year old son at this time.
After the ten hour visit, I came out of the water and sat at the shore for a rest. The dolphins followed and laid in the shallow water looking up at me. We rested for a short while. The day was getting long and the sun was about to slip behind the horizon. The old woman came to me and said that she was equipped for people to stay the night and that she has sleeping bags & pillows for those that wanted to stay. She explained again that I could stay as long as I wanted and reiterated that once I walked out that front door I would not be allowed back in. She apologized for the rule but because she could only have a certain number of people at one time, she could only allow one visit per person and they could only tell one person so the number of visitors would not grow to overwhelming proportions.
The gypsy and I sat again at the water's edge.
She began softly and slowly in her gentle voice. "It is so very painful for me to have a one visit per person rule. I have always hoped that it did more good than harm. My hope is that when people leave here they would not the feel pain knowing that they could never come back. I hope the experience would prove to lighten the pain they felt in their hearts over lost loved ones and that knowing how death works will help them understand. I hope the folks that got a chance at this experience were better for it. I hope they feel more enriched in life knowing what happens to us all in the end.
She continued warmly, "Watching people frolicking and play and talk to their loved ones is incredibly heart-warming. Their reunion is the best feeling in the world, but watching them leave and never get to see their loved ones again for a second time often takes its toll on people. I pray the visitor leaving feels fortunate and blessed that they got a second chance but the heart sometimes overflows and you see it in their eyes. It hurts to see that much pain."
I listened to the woman's concerns and thought about the people that had come in and out of her life here at her amazing portal. I had many questions for her. I wanted to know how long she had been doing this. How old she was. How she became the conduit between the two worlds. So much more.
Just then she said, "I believe I am relieving more pain than causing it. Some of the visitors who have come to see their dolphin family members actually come back but not through the front door. They come in through here." She pointed out to beyond eyes reach and out into the sparkling water.
"You mean they come back as dolphins? They come back in search of their family members?" I said letting her know I understand.
"Yes and these dolphins along with most all the others communicate to me. They tell me that their lives have all changed for the good after their experiences here. They have a different view of things. Of humanity. Of religion. Knowing the process is only painful for the ones left behind makes living and dying and all of the sorrow so much easier to bear." She explained as she reached out and held my hand.
I looked over to her with tears in my eyes as I felt the pain in her words. I looked up into her eyes and she was also weeping. Her eyes wept many times a day. She bore the burden of sadness of many. She knew it and she accepted it. The outcome outweighs the hurt.
I mustered with conviction, "You are doing a wonderful thing here Ma'am. Please don't be sad. Please do not take the burden of all the hurt and carry it. You are truly doing god's work."
Even as I spoke the words I knew that my time was coming shortly. I knew I would only be able to spend a few short hours with
my sister and parents in the water and then would have to be leaving. My life outside this house was waiting. My young son was waiting for me. My family needed to know about this incredible oasis and line up to come and see our parents and their parents and others stripped from their lives.
I spent the next few hours with my family in the water once again. As I neared my time to leave I tried to maintain a happy demeanor but I knew that it was going to be extremely difficult.
I sat in the warm water and called for each dolphin to come and sit alongside me in the shallower water. First my father came to my side. We communicated to each other our love and sorrow for not being able to be with each other and that we will see each other again but not too soon we hoped.
I then called for my mother. I sat with her a long while talking and saying all the things we never got to say to each other before she was stolen from me. I looked into her eyes and could see my mother' face and sad eyes in the dolphin's face. I could see the pain and feel the heartache of our last visit together. Tears ran down her face as her expression turned to a smile and she said. "I will see you the moment your time comes up and not a second before. You live your long life for your son and family. Stay strong for your family."
And then she and my father swam away into the distance and awaited my sister.
Julie came to me after a moment's silence and just sat with me. We never spoke. We didn't have to. Sitting in one another's company was sufficient for now for both of us. After many minutes silence I told her that I was going to be telling her daughter and family about my experience and that she will be here soon.
Julie said, "She is not allowed to come with her family. Only one person, remember? You must follow the lady's rule. No exceptions. She cannot allow for them." Tears rolled down her grey and white smooth skin and flowed into the water. They formed perfect shiny drops as they hit the water. The water shimmered as each tear spilled into it.
She turned and left immediately after we said our goodbyes. As she turned, she looked back at me then quickly snapped her tailfin!
SPLASH! A giant quick wall of water sprayed over me covering me from head to toe. I was startled and immediately yelled.
"HEY JULIE !" She looked back, gave me a wink and a nod then cackled laughingly into the air as she swam away. Classic big sis. Always looking to make you laugh and not cry.
I stood up and walked back to land where the old gypsy lady was mulling around. She looked at me with her warm eyes and smiled a beautiful smile. "Of course the rule does not apply to a person who wishes to bring their young children with them. I should have made that clear to your friends when they left the other day. I knew you had a young son who never met his grandparents. I know your sister is aching to see her twin grandbabies as well. Tell Julie's daughter to bring her child and you may come back one last time with your son when he is a bit older. I will grant you a second visit so you may accompany him when he is a young man. Young Hayden will need you there.
I looked at her as my heart sank. Somehow knowing that she knew more than she even let on, I hugged the old gypsy lady and began to weep.
"These are tears of joy I said. I am not sad. I am happy. You make people happy here. Not sad."
I looked far into the bright shiny lagoon and watched my family of three dance into the distance and on into the setting sun over the gulf waters. A sense of calm and peace blanketed my body. I felt whole again.
"I'll see you again soon guys!" I yelled out to them.
By Cliff Woodhall