Ag died in Tank Cave, two years ago today.
It’s still not clear exactly what happened that meant she couldn’t return to the surface. I don’t know that it ever will be. More importantly, I don’t know that it matters as much as the fact that two years on, she’s still dead. Last year I felt very strongly that sometimes divers take risks for themselves without considering that their friends and family are the ones who will have to live with the consequences. This year I’m getting closer to really understanding that being dead lasts for a very long time.
In the weeks and months after Ag died, I saw her on a near daily basis. A stranger walking across the train platform in blue shoes. A redhead queueing for a sandwich. Walking through Mt Gambier to pick up cave keys and thinking “oh, there’s my friend”, and getting hit with the realisation, again, that it wasn’t her and that it wouldn’t ever be her. As my brain processed a big idea a little piece at a time I stopped recognising strangers so frequently. Now it only happens occasionally, with the same jolt.
For a while after she died I knew where she should have been, what she might have been doing. Two weeks after she died, we were going to OZTeK together. Ag was going to introduce me to the cool folk and give a talk on her exploits. She had a trip to Tassie planned for a few weeks after that. She should have been at the pub night the following month. And all the while, she should have continued the fitness training she was doing every day for a major expedition she had on the cards for early 2012.
By now OZTeK has come around again, major expeditions have come and gone. We’ve started exploring Elk River again, and I added new line to the end of her and Jim’s exploration. A whole new cave was discovered on the Roe Plains, and a tunnel named after her. The area she opened up in C tunnel in Tank in 2010 is being visited regularly and the original “restriction” there has gotten a lot bigger with the traffic. Cave diving and exploration progresses. The world keeps spinning, even though a part of it is missing. If Ag was still here she’d be a different person now, two years older and wiser and with a few more tall tales in her repertoire. And my memories of Ag are two years old and getting further from reality, changed by my changing views of the world and coloured by other people’s contributions.
I wish for impossible things, for time machines and reincarnation, but the universe isn’t showing any signs of delivering either. So perhaps my thoughts this year are the same as last year’s thoughts. Being dead lasts forever. The cave will still be there tomorrow and next week and next year. Think of the people who will miss you, and take it easy down there.