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A Diving Musician Grieves PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
As Published in Bonaire Reporter : Every now and then life’s events transcend what we thought was important. A dive buddy and neighbor at Sand Dollar Condo Resort named Andy Owens, who was featured in this column a few months ago, had such an experience this spring on Bonaire. “I turned 50 this past year and it was kind of a wake-up call. I was writing about making the best use of your time. I wrote some love songs. I was writing more ethereal songs—more about life and getting older, songs that are more philosophical in nature.

But, I think I just had the weirdest songwriting experience ever. My best friend of 35 years, who got me started in music, was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. I felt that losing him was going to be like losing a journal of my life history.

While doing a night scuba dive, I had this song line pop into my head underwater, which was, ‘Tell me my life story,’ a song about losing a good friend. This buddy of mine loved to hear about all my adventures. He was a stay-on-the-farm kind of guy.

I thought I would finish the song under water, so a few days later I dove by myself to a shipwreck called the Hilma Hooker. (ed. DivePsych does not endorse solo wreck diving.) At 100 feet deep I crawled inside in the dark, hung up a light, and with several tanks of air wrote the rest of the lyrics. When I tried to get out I was by myself and I got stuck. I thought, ‘Oh, no, I don’t have the melody yet—I can’t die here!’ but I wrenched myself free and got out.

The sad part is that although I didn’t know it while I was writing the song, simultaneously my friend was dying of complications from his cancer. I had to rush back and bury him. I will finish the song soon…and maybe put it on the next album.”

Andy’s story reminded me of another dive buddy, Bob, who approached me a few years ago for lunch to talk about the recent death of one of his regular dive buddies during decompression on a 160 foot wreck dive in Lake Michigan he had opted out of. He was dealing with grief and survivor guilt and needed a good listener. That was the start of a close friendship and since then we have collaborated on several scuba research projects and articles for The Bonaire Reporter and The Undersea Journal.

Sublimation in the form of artistic and intellectual pursuits is one of the most mature coping mechanisms, as Andy and Bob illustrate. Another is altruism, serving others without expecting any direct benefit to oneself.

When my wife and I started studying scuba panic back in 2000, I started getting emails from around the world from divers who had lost friends in dive accidents and were still struggling with grief. That is not the kind of statistic that shows up in DAN’s Annual Diving Report, but for every diver fatality, there are hurting survivors out there, some of whom just need someone to listen to their story. Will you be available to help another diver?
Last Updated ( Friday, 29 June 2007 )
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