Mum's search for the boy who saved her life
EVERY day, Lynn Murray looks at a photo among her family pictures that makes her smile and wonder about the boy she's embracing and how his life turned out.
The treasured photo was taken 25 years ago, after then-teenager Chris Dillon saved the Northern Beaches mum's life when she was pulled into the surf at Lamberts Beach by a rip after saving her two sons from drowning.
Ms Murray this week took to Facebook in the hope to be reunited with her "guardian angel", after not knowing the boy's name or exact date the photo of the pair was printed in the Daily Mercury.
"I just wanted to check and see how his life is going," the now-67-year-old grandmother says.
Two years ago, while working as a driver for Mackay Transit Coaches, Ms Murray was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
"I was forced to leave work which wasn't in my plans, but then again it's hard to plan your life isn't it?" she says.
"But I'm dealing with it... it's a degenerative disease so what I'm trying to do now is tie up my loose ends.
"I was going through all my photos and I thought 'if I don't do this now, how much time have I got?'"
It was this heartbreaking diagnosis that made her reflect on her life, and that horrifying day on Lamberts Beach with her boys, 16-year-old keen surfer Clayton and 10-year-old Troy.
"I made Troy move up the beach a little bit because all the surfers were coming in and he was on a boogie board," Ms Murray recalls.
"The next minute he started screaming out and putting his hand up and yelling out 'help' so my other son and I ran down to help him. My elder son went out to him and put him on his back, then they were both being sucked out.
"It was frightening, the only thing I could do was swim out behind them and every time a wave hit I kept pushing them and pushing them towards the shore.
"When they touched ground, I got sucked out and I was so tired ... I almost gave in, I never thought I would."
She says the rips at Lamberts Beach were notorious, and while the three were relatively strong swimmers, fighting against the currents and swirls was horrifying.
"For years afterwards, every time I'd drift off to sleep I could hear the kids screaming out to me," she says.
Ms Murray remembers people standing on the beach watching as she was pulled further away from shore, until the image of a surfboard came into view.
"(All of a sudden) this young kid came over and I grabbed out at him and pulled him off his surfboard at first by his leg rope," she says.
"But then he got me up on his surfboard and towed me in. And then he just swum away."
"When he swum away I thought 'how am I ever going to thank him?' - I was vomiting and I had to drive home to the Northern Beaches..."
The very next day, Ms Murray put an ad in the Daily Mercury classifieds in an attempt to find her saviour.
"(Chris) was working at Swift Engineering at Paget at the time doing an apprenticeship, and his mates said to him 'here's that lady you were talking about' so he contacted the newspaper," she says.
"The Mercury did stories two days in a row on the front page where I got to meet him afterwards. I started crying; it was beautiful.
"I bought him a surf voucher so he could buy some surf clothes and stuff like that and I got to thank him.
"And that was the last I saw of him."
Fast forward to today, and Ms Murray's Facebook appeal was a success: Someone spotted her post who knew Chris, and soon she even received a message from Chris' mum and sister saying how proud they were of his actions that day at Slade Point.
She is now in contact with her hero, and was preparing for a phone chat with Chris as soon as it could be arranged.
"I sent him the photo saying 'do you remember this?' and he said 'yes, I still have all the newspaper clippings'," Ms Murray says. "He lives down the Gold Coast now and is still a keen surfer."
Ms Murray struggles to find the words to describe how she feels about someone who saved her life.
"I want my boys to appreciate him too like I appreciate him, because without him - they wouldn't have a mother," she says.
"Chris gave me a second chance to see my kids grow up and my grandchildren come into the world. How do you repay someone like that?"