Floating on my stomach, drifting with the current, I’ve always found peace in vividly colored corals, anemones, and reef fish. I’ve marveled that when we stop propelling ourselves, these sea butterflies and I, we travel together at the same speed, in the same direction, the ocean taking us where she will while muting sounds carried through the air, completing the otherworldly ambiance of her underwater realm.
We stayed on Maui for a month when I was twelve because my dad was away on business that would ultimately deliver him to Hawaii, and my mom decided if she had to be alone with three girls for that long, she’d rather be on a tropical island than stranded in suburbia. Who were we to argue?
I learned to snorkel that first week and subsequently spent hours in the water every day for the rest of the month, fascinated by the fish. I went all bio-geek with a field guide, keeping track of the various angels, tangs, triggers, and whatnot. I decided I wanted to be a marine biologist. My mom’s biggest concern was convincing me to wear a white t-shirt because my back was getting sunburned as sunscreen just wasn’t that great back then.
Since that trip, I’ve been snorkeling many times. I’m not particularly adventurous compared to some people. But I’ve seen eels, barracuda, rays, and reef sharks, in addition to an entire array of spectacularly painted fish in every shape and size. I’ve gone swimming with turtles, scared flounders out of the sand, watched sea cucumbers crawl across the coral. I’ve even gone scuba diving a few times and been amazed at how much more engrossing the underwater world of Jacques Cousteau is from 30 feet under. As a snorkeler, I observed. As a diver, I became.
The ocean has been wonderful to me, but she’s as beautiful as she is dangerous.
Earlier this week, I learned on Facebook that one of my college friends went snorkeling in front of his hotel in Cozumel and never came back.
Dave Stuckey–one of the nicest, funniest, most genuine guys in the world–went snorkeling, like so many of us have done so many times before. Only, he never came back.
Dave’s body was found some hours later. It’s presumed he got caught in a giant undertow. My heart goes out to his family and many friends. He touched every person with the depth of his kindness and sincerity. Dave was one of the truly good guys, and he will be sorely missed.
I wish with every fiber of my being that this tragedy never occurred. It’s difficult to imagine that there’d be no element of panic in a death by drowning. But I’m hoping he felt safe. I’m hoping he felt peace. I’m hoping he drifted with the current into the beyond with the angelfish, spellbound by their beauty.