De Profundis

It is with a subdued heart that I find myself writing this. The small and close-knit freediving community had a shock yesterday when one of our brightest stars passed away. We all know the risks of this sport. The discipline needed, and the pressure on your body to push it to its limits.

But when the news broke yesterday, my initial reaction was that this was some sick joke. Then I realised who would be writing the post, and that this was, indeed, no joke. A brilliant diver – one who I watched with fascination as he progressed in leaps and bounds – would dive no more. My first thought through the shock was for his family, his best friend, the amazing group of guys at Vertical Blue, and all those who had known and loved the man.

I can’t say there was a feeling of “why” – because I know and understand that. There was a feeling of helplessness for those who did everything they could to save him. But most of all, there is a profound sense of loss. With the freedivers I am privileged to know and call friends – there is one, or sometimes 2 degrees of separation between me and people who are being bowled by this tragedy completely.

There will never be the right words to say to any of them, nothing is going to fill the hole that Nic Mevoli left. And he will never know how many lives he truly touched. The only consolation – if it is any consolation at all – is that he died doing something he loved. In a place he loved. With people who loved him. He wasn’t hit by a car, or killed by some senseless act of violence. He knew what he was doing, and we can only assume, accepted his fate – as one does when undertaking such an act.

It turns out that he was Roman Catholic. I may not be one myself, but that hasn’t stopped me from lighting a candle for him at the Cathedral across from my work. Nor pulling out my rosary beads and reciting the Rosary for him. I will do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. You study enough theology, and you get to understand the belief system. I do this not for me, but for his mother and his family. They will never know, and they will never meet me. But their beliefs are important, and praying for the soul of one departed is central to this. If I am able to do nothing else, I hope this little piece of karma gets to them somehow or another.

Maybe it is a female thing. I have no offspring. But I can almost feel a shadow of what mothers must feel when they have to bury their children. I hope that I never experience that type of pain first hand, because I can only imagine it to be soul-wrenching grief and an indescribable loss of part of yourself. And so I grieve for his parents, his siblings, and all those that are left behind. Because it is those left behind that have to deal with the void. They gave him a beautiful send off at the Bahamas today, but his loss will be felt for a very long time to come.

It is also particularly devastating as the freediving community comprises a bunch of the most amazing, radiant, incredible people. And I had just spent the weekend with a group of them participating at our pool national championships. It was only in the rec grade, because I haven’t really been able to train since June, and while my static performance really let me down – I was pleased with my rather conservative lengths. I could have pushed myself further in everything, but I chose not to. Not yet. When I am stronger and my head is clearer.

But our loss on Sunday as a community makes me appreciate these shining individuals I train, play, and compete with even more. Freediving is an unusual sport because it is highly individual, and very psychological. All competition is friendly. You all want to dive the deepest or swim the farthest. You want to go further than the next person. But you all celebrate each other’s successes. There is encouragement from your colleagues – not disparaging comments; observations, not criticisms. We all have an insatiable love of water, and that is what draws us together. These people are Good People, and I am honoured to know them.

So while my heart goes out to all those affected by this great loss – and I wish I could just hug each and every one of them – I’m being grateful for those I have with me and around me. And I want to thank Nic, wherever he may be, for the stories I have had relayed back to me, and for making this world a little brighter for a while. May his spirit and escapades live long in our memories.