Diving Off Waikiki


My great dream, scuba diving in the ocean, became the source of an even greater discovery.

Within a few seconds of my awkward leap into the waters off Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, I descended from the known safety of a small boat into the unknown depths of the Pacific. Soon I was standing on the ocean floor attempting to control the panic swelling up inside my chest, adjust to the pressure of the thirty-foot depth, and manage all the awkward equipment required for underwater survival. As I struggled with these problems, I wondered whether a 35-year-old mother of six was really meant to be under so much water exploring coral reefs!

But soon the sheer beauty of the aqua, neon yellow, and orange hues of the tropical life surrounding me began to command my attention. With the help of my instructors, I scratched the tummy of a giant sea turtle, explored the hidden crevices of the surrounding coral, discovered several sinister-looking eels, swam amid schools of multicolored fish, met a friendly puffer fish, and swam through arches of lava rock. For me it was an incredible adventure; it seemed at the time to be the ultimate experience.

As a small child, I had been fascinated by the gorgeous underwater scenes depicted in National Geographic magazines. Reading and studying about the mysteries of ocean life left me with dreams of exploring it for myself.

Later, as a student at Brigham Young University, I took a physical education class in scuba diving. This, I believed, would be the first step toward achieving my goal. I passed the course and became a certified scuba diver—without ever entering the ocean. The busy life and short finances of student life kept me from making an ocean dive. Then the joy of marriage and children filled my life, and I gave little thought to underwater adventure.

But sometimes in quiet moments, as I nursed my baby or watched my children play or sleep, my mind would drift to my goal of an ocean dive. I promised myself that someday I would do that.

Then, eighteen years later, my husband and I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii on business. We left our children with their grandmother. Once in Hawaii, my husband went to work, and I went to fulfill my dream of snorkeling in the waters off Waikiki and exploring around coral reefs. I lived my dream that morning with my awkward leap into the ocean.

However, I discovered something I had only half suspected: the reality of that dive didn’t measure up to my dreams and fantasies. Of course, the dive was fun, a wonderful encounter with mysterious marine wildlife—a great mental and physical challenge.

The ocean floor was as beautiful, indeed, as the many magazine photos I had studied as a child.

But I found, quite understandably, that the magic and thrill of this “ultimate experience” of which I had dreamed for so long did not even come close to the joys of the less-romantic moments of motherhood in my life. I appreciated more fully than ever the nature of motherhood.

For example, my feelings of happiness and achievement during that dive did not compare to my feelings of joy the following Sunday as I sat in sacrament meeting with my children. They were struggling with each other to see who would get to sit by me! I was special to them. And those feelings at Waikiki did not match the pure joy I felt as I watched my young son pass the sacrament or as I recognized the beauty of my two teenage daughters. And that dive did not bring me the peace I felt as I knelt in my own home in family prayer.

As a mother, I have reaped a rich harvest of blessings, joy, and achievement. These blessings and gifts have not come in one blinding moment or experience. They have been built upon, step by step, moment by moment, until their fullness and richness became more than I had ever imagined or hoped to experience—and these blessings far outshone the beauty of my Hawaiian adventure.

[illustration] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh

Debbie M. Hooge serves as a Primary teacher in the Highland Twelfth Ward, Highland Utah Stake.