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 beforeOnly, 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.


photo credit: mattk1979 via photopin cc

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44 Responses to “Otherworldly”

  1. Michelle LongoJanuary 29, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    Oh my goodness. I’m sorry about your friend.

    • StacieJanuary 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

      Thanks Michelle. I hadn’t seen him in a very long time, but it’s still hard to believe.

  2. Samantha Brinn MerelJanuary 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    That is so sad. I’m sorry about your friend. I hope he was at peace too, surrounded by beauty.

    • StacieJanuary 29, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Me too, Sam. Me too.

  3. ranu802January 29, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    It is such a tragic story.

    • StacieJanuary 29, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

      It really is.

  4. Joseph CereolaJanuary 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    I snorkel a lot too. I never thought of it as a dangerous activity. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

    • StacieJanuary 29, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

      That’s exactly it, Joe. I never thought of snorkeling as dangerous either. Diving, yes. Snorkeling always seemed so safe.

  5. icescreammamaJanuary 29, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

    oh man. i’m so sorry. that is just horrible. and as if i weren’t already freaked out by the ocean enough.

    • StacieJanuary 29, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

      It’s good to have a healthy fear of the ocean, it seems.

  6. Amy TerrorJanuary 29, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    What sad, horrible news to receive about a friend. I’m so sorry. I’ve always been afraid of water and I’m envious of anyone who has the fortitude to dive. It must be beautiful and thrilling and, I have to think, a bit scary. At least your friend went out embracing life as an adventurer and getting to do something he loved one last time. *Hugs*

    • StacieJanuary 30, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      I haven’t generally been afraid but these types of horrible accidents definitely make me think twice.

  7. cynkingfeelingJanuary 29, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    I sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.

  8. KarenJanuary 29, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    I’m sorry about the loss of your friend.

    I love your ending paragraph – especially the final sentence. Beautiful.

    • StacieJanuary 30, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      Thank you Karen. I really do hope it was like that for him.

  9. Deanna HerrmannJanuary 30, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    I’m so sorry for your loss and for your friend. Your writing and imagery throughout this piece was very beautiful. I loved the end as well.

    • StacieJanuary 30, 2014 at 8:59 am #

      Thanks for the kind words Deanna. I only wish I never had to write this.

  10. SarahJanuary 30, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Stacie, and was struck by the beautiful imagery throughout this post.

  11. SwoosiequeJanuary 30, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    OH, I’m so sorry for your loss, I can only wish it wasn’t so.

  12. Ben @ DadoftheDecadeJanuary 30, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Oh no. My sincere condolences – what a tragedy.

  13. LynnJanuary 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    So so sad about Sweet Dave. I have also been thinking about how it must have been for him. Thanks for writing this.

    • StacieJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:36 am #

      So so sad, Lynn. And you knew him so much better than I did.

  14. Natalie DeYoungJanuary 30, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    I’m so sorry, Stacie. This is horrifying. As someone who likes to snorkel, it’s especially scary.

    • StacieJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      I think that’s what really hit home for me too. I’ve never viewed snorkeling as dangerous before.

  15. Linda RoyJanuary 30, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    How sad and tragic. And how beautiful that last paragraph. I hope that was his reality as well. I’m so sorry for your loss Stacie.

  16. Robbie K (@momma23monkeys)January 30, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Sad and tragic but so beautifully written. Sorry for your loss. Dave sounds like he touched many lives.

    • StacieJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      He really did. He was a guy that was nice to everyone.

  17. quinndienJanuary 30, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    This is such a lovely tribute to both your friend, and the hobby you both shared. It’s hard enough when we choose to engage in an activity we know is risky. But when tragedy occurs while engaging in a seemingly innocuous activity, it can throw you for a loop.

    • StacieJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      So true Quinn.

  18. biz319January 30, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    That is so horrible – sending prayers to his family. When I was 16 I got caught in the undertow in the Outer Banks of N.C. My lack of swimming ability actually saved my life – I ended up going with the current and it eventually spit me back out to shore. That was nearly 30 years ago, and to this day, won’t go in the ocean above my ankles.

    • StacieJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      How scary, Biz! I’m glad you were ok!

  19. Adventures w/Riley (@dkotucker)January 30, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    So, so sorry Stacie. I hope too that he felt safe and at peace as he drifted into the beyond. Beautiful writing as always. (((HUGS)))

  20. Obed MedinaJanuary 30, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend. This is a beautiful tribute.

  21. StacieJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Thanks everyone, for the wonderful comments.

    • RalphMarch 8, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      Thank you this tribute. David became my best friend over the year and a half I lived next door to him. I just found out and was wondering why he wasn’t replying to my calls or texts. I’m shocked and devastated.

      • StacieMarch 8, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

        I’m sorry. That’s a very difficult way to find out.

  22. TheJackBFebruary 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    So sorry to hear this, you wrote a very nice tribute.

  23. Eli PachecoFebruary 25, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    I’m equally sorry to hear you’ve lost a friend, and grateful that you had him in the first place. And that his influence on you led you to write such a beautiful and compelling piece.

    Nature’s strength is incredible, and we are right to feel minute before it, and if we’re lucky, we can feel one with it too, as you described you felt. He did too, I’m convinced. What a moving tribute.

    • StacieMarch 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

      Thank you Eli, for the sweet comment and for visiting my blog!

  24. MaryamMarch 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Stacie thank you for your lovely tribute. I was privileged enough to know David. I worked with him for the past three years and he was a big part of my life. Not only was he my boss and mentor, but a great friend. Every time I’m in the office, i still can’t believe he isn’t coming back. I just wanted to thank you and let you know that as you said he did touch many many lives and he is sorely missed.

    • StacieMarch 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

      I’m sorry for your loss Maryam. We all feel it deeply. I hadn’t seen Dave in many years – I was a year ahead of him so our reunions were never at the same time. Still, I feel like I was gut-punched. He was a special guy.

    • RalphMarch 8, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

      Hi Maryam, Please call me on the number from my website http://www.ralphmonteath.com

  25. RobJune 24, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    I just read in the Oxy mag about the loss of David. I usually don’t go through the obit section since it’s the last place you’d ever expect to see someone you knew (at our current age, anyway). But I was very sorry to hear about the loss.
    We weren’t close but we spoke a bit as undergrads, and we were unbeknownst to each other both living in Japan after graduating for a time.
    I last spoke to him a bit at our 25 Year Reunion. From what I can find out, he was alone in Cozumel when the accident happened. It’s surprising to find that he went there by himself, and was snorkeling without a buddy.
    I don’t know about his family or if he had kids, but I hope he is at peace and all those who care for him find comfort.
    You can see some footage and photos I took of the Oxy classes, including his and yours at:

    • StacieJune 28, 2014 at 8:38 am #

      Rob, thanks for sharing your footage and photos. I heard he was snorkeling alone but in Cozumel attending a family wedding. It’s routine to have a buddy while scuba diving but people just assume snorkeling is safe. I’ve been out there by myself too. I probably won’t do that again. I’m glad you got to speak to him at your 25th. I hadn’t seen Dave in so long since my reunions are always the year before his. Still, it’s so sad. He was such a great guy.

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