A well-known and experienced scuba diver went for a dive with him mom in Cozumel, Mexico over the weekend and hasn’t surfaced. Cameron Donaldson is currently missing, with extensive search teams in place trying to locate him throughout the Caribbean. Outside of following his posts on SCUBA forums, I don’t know Cameron, but he's friends with some friends of mine and I’ve been following the news of this with a close eye and a heavy heart, knowing the inevitable outcome looks grim for his family. It’s impossible to see pictures of Cameron’s smiling face, every photo with a twinkle of adventure in his eye, the sea as his backdrop and not think of Brian. Brian was an experienced open water diver, but he was new to the CCR (closed circuit rebreather) machine and died during a training dive in his class. I know a lot of you are curious about the circumstances surrounding his death and at some point his family and I will explain to you all what we know from his dive profile report. (We’ve previously released this information to the diving community in hopes of helping prevent similar tragedies, but without any context of diving, specifically CCR diving, it would be hard to understand – so we’ll explain to you all at some point.)
In any regard, following this story of Cameron has jolted me right back to the days and weeks following Brian’s death. Brian was my dive buddy. We got certified in January 2015 and dove open circuit together over the next few years, (in between pregnancies), always doing buddy checks, never out of each others sights underwater, always close by to help one another in the event something unexpectedly went wrong-which has been known to happen while diving. When we moved to Hawaii and he decided he wanted to dive into the realm of CCR and technical diving, I supported him wholeheartedly, knowing that while this type of diving didn’t interest me, it was Brian’s next great adventure and that his yearning to be near/on/in the sea would never go away – nor would I want it to. That being said, it was hard to know my dive buddy was in the ocean without me, not being able to see with my own eyes that he was as safe as possible in an inherently un-safe environment. This thought has stuck with me over these past 10 months. Would things have been different if I was in the water with him that day? I was 6 months pregnant - and I don’t dive CCR- so there’s no way I actually could have been in the water with him, but knowing what I know now, it’s impossible for me to not let my mind wander and think if I had been with my dive buddy on this dive, I could have changed the outcome. We would have done our buddy checks, we would be constantly asking for an OK from each other, holding hands and taking photos together underwater and afterwards we would have surfaced together laughing about what an incredible life we lived together before heading to the Waikiki Yard House for hot & spicy edamame. These thoughts have, at times, consumed me over the past 10 months.
Then I read this story this weekend, and Cameron had a dive buddy with him on this dive, his mom. Even with his dive buddy there, something happened and as of right now, Cameron hasn’t made it back yet. Following this story has both broken my heart and helped heal it at the same time. I know what it feels like to not have any answers, to play “what-if” in your own head, to question every single outcome, every possible scenario and just not believe the reality unfolding around you. At this point, Cameron is missing and the entire diving community is hoping he’s somewhere out there, having found a pocket of air somewhere, or having drifted to one of the small islands in the Caribbean, anxiously awaiting rescue.
Immediately following Brian’s death, I had no information as to what happened to him, what went wrong, what caused his death. But at least we had him. His body. I was able to see him, hold him and say my goodbye. The memories of these final moments with him have brought excruciating pain, but I’m also grateful for them, and with it, the knowledge of what happened. I’m keenly aware that not every family gets these types of moments and with it, a sense of closure.
I’ve never considered myself a writer. Brian was the English major, the poet, the person who was a little shy in person, but could effortlessly pen his thoughts to paper. While going through his most prized possessions I found song lyrics and poems he’d written from his time as the vocalist for punk and metal bands when we first met. His ability to manipulate words to get his point across made him not only an incredibly romantic letter writer, but it also served as an outlet for him to clear his head. I could never fathom baring my soul to the world in that way, putting my thoughts and feelings out there, making myself vulnerable for others to judge, but now I can’t seem to stop. My thoughts free-flow and the only way to help me process them is to write them down and hit post, exposing them – and myself – in the process.
I’m proud of myself and the progress I’ve made these past 10 months, as a widow, a mother, a writer and as an individual. I can’t bring myself to read through my early posts and writings, but I can say with 100% transparency that I truly did not think I’d make it to see the 10 month mark. The proverbial, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” has never had more meaning than it does to me in these few days leading up to the 10 month mark. I still mourn the loss of my husband, my partner, my best friend, my one true love. I know this will be a long journey, but I now feel stronger, more confident, more determined than I ever have in my life and I have Brian to thank for this, both in life and in death. He continues to teach me not only the importance of life, but important life lessons. The kids and I are moving forward every single day, enjoying what life has to offer, taking advantage of opportunities as they’re presented to us, pushing ourselves as individuals and as a family, enjoying adventures and making new memories together. I’m grateful for these three little people who just like their dad, somehow find ways to teach me about myself, who show me what love looks like, what it feels like and remind me that we alone are responsible for our own happiness and that if you want something, you just need to make it happen. We are not victims, we are a family that suffered a devastating tragedy and are now rebuilding our lives, right in front of your eyes. I am so unbelievably proud of us. This very easily could have broken us, but together we pushed through and I truly believe are destined for incredible things in the future because of how hard we’re willing to work to make it happen.
This post was kind of all over the place, but that’s kind of how my thoughts are these days, as always, thank you for following along. Please keep Cameron and his family in your thoughts as their search continues, and if you have a few extra dollars to donate, a go-fund-me has been set up to assist in search efforts. https://www.gofundme.com/find-cameron-donaldson