Diver Brian Tovin swam deep into South Carolina’s Cooper River in search of fossils and relics. In 40 feet of murky water, fighting the current, something shiny caught his eye.
“Without even shining my light on it, it was clear that it has weight to it, and it was metal or gold,” Tovin said.
“And when I shined my light on it, I said, wow, this is the first time I’ve ever found jewelry underneath the water,” he said.
But it was more than just jewelry. It was a ring that had become the “stuff of legend” since the owner lost it nearly 40 years ago.
“I held onto it for the rest of the dive. I just didn’t want to lose it,” Tovin said.
Inscribed on the large, gold ring were the initials RLP and the date 1974. The ring also displayed the name of a nearby school: the College of Charleston. With those clues, Tovin’s journey to return the jewelry began.
Tovin first called the college’s alumni association. The college determined that only two people who graduated in 1974 had those initials, and one was female.
Now, Tovin knew who he was looking for: Robert LeVaughn Phillips.
After searching on social media, Tovin eventually connected with Robert’s son, Eric Phillips. Tovin quizzed him to make sure he had tracked down the rightful owner. Phillips e-mailed a copy of his father’s diploma, and Tovin was convinced he was in the right place.
Tovin soon learned that like so many other things in life, this very simple college ring — lost for so many years — had more meaning to it than many will ever understand.
“My dad was a storyteller, kind of a used-car salesman at times,” Eric Phillips said.
“He kind of has some of the same jokes, but he talked about the ring all the time because it came from his mother, and you know it’s just one of the stories that just epitomized a season of his life.”
Robert Phillips was boating on the Cooper River with his future wife, Nancy, when he lost the ring in 1974 — just two weeks after he got it.
“He was very upset and hated to tell his mom that he lost it,” Nancy Phillips said.
“Losing it in the river, we never thought we would never, ever, ever see it again.”
Growing up without his father in his life, Robert Phillips was determined to succeed on his own. He graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in business administration.
The ring, a symbol of all he had accomplished, was his mother’s last gift to him before she passed away from pancreatic cancer.
Tovin hoped he could return the cherished ring to Phillips at his home, but Phillips — now fighting cancer — was not there. He was rushed into surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston last weekend for brain surgery.
That setback didn’t stop a reunion 39 years in the making. A few days after Phillips’ operation, Tovin met Phillips in the hospital. With his family by his side, Phillips sat in a hospital chair. His voice was barely above a whisper, but it was full of life as a stranger returned a part of his life to him.
Down on one knee, Tovin opened up a ring box to reveal Phillips’s lost treasure.
“I was down there fighting strong currents and alligators trying to get you your ring back,” said Tovin, as Phillips smiled.
“And I’ve got it here, and I know this is going to look like I’m proposing to you, so please don’t tell my wife, OK,” he said, as the room erupted in laughter.
“Wow. That is awesome,” Phillips said.
Then, Phillips began to tell Tovin and everyone the story that his family has heard endlessly — the story of the lost ring.
“I was on the back of the boat. And I decided I needed a beer,” he said softly.
“I pulled the pop top and when I did, my finger got caught in the pop top, and it went with it,” he told Tovin.
“I guess I have to go have it sized now, don’t I,” he added with a grin.
“You’ve got a lot of years left. So, you’re going to be wearing that ring,” Tovin responded.
With his wife and two children watching this reunion of sorts, they all felt this ring would give their patriarch the comfort he needs right now.
“No matter how much time he has with us, we’ll always have that ring. And it will always signify a good season of our life and a good memory of our father, and the fact that he got to share in it before he left us,” Eric Phillips said.
In some ways, this decades-long loop of life has been closed, and a new story — one that the Phillips family will be telling for generations — has been written.
“Thank you Lord that I got it back,” Robert Phillips said.
“I had a nightmare the other night that I lost it again,” he said.
“No more beer cans,” he laughed.
Photo: Tim Sheerman-Chase
How Scuba Diving can help you overcome physical and mental challenges
This International Disabilities Day (December 3 2022) PADI is reminding the world of the healing aspects that the ocean (or any body of water) can provide us all and how important of a modality it is for helping those with physical or mental challenges improve their wellbeing. From simply being within close proximity of it or diving beneath the salty surface for an underwater adventure, the ocean is also healing.
Regardless of your age, ability, or even limitations, the ocean can benefit us physically, emotionally and even spiritually. This is why PADI is on a mission to make those benefits accessible to all, launching their Adaptive Techniques Diving Course in the hopes that all of humanity can experience the full transformational power the ocean offers us.
While many are more familiar with traditional therapies, whether it be diving, mermaiding or freediving, people around the world have been forever changed by connecting with the water – conquering mental or physical perceived limitations.
There are an estimated one billion people on the planet that have a physical and/or mental disability – imagine the power that diving and immersion can have on this population if awarded the opportunity.
PADI’s history is replete with people whose lives have been transformed by connecting with the water because they were able to experience and explore the underwater world through PADI programme and certifications. PADI’s approach to diver education has always been inclusive and is a key pillar to their Pillars of Change. Everyone who meets prerequisites is welcome to join the global community of 29 million+ certified PADI Divers.
PADI created two courses that focus on increasing awareness of varying diver abilities and exploring adaptive teaching techniques to apply when training and diving with physically and mentally challenged divers: the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty and the PADI Adaptive Support Diver course.
These courses further expand Instructors’ and Divemasters’ abilities to be student-centered and prescriptive in approach when adapting techniques to meet diver needs. Here are the various ways PADI helps those with disabilities overcome all their challenges by connecting them with water:
1. Improved Muscular Movement, Light Sensitivity and PTSD Symptoms
A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found, “veterans with spinal cord injuries who underwent a four-day scuba diving certification saw significant improvement in muscle movement, increased sensitivity to light touch and pinprick on the legs, and large reductions in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.”
2. Lifts Your Mental State and Mood
Did you know that the ocean air can literally lift your mood? “The sound and vision of the ocean lift our mood,” says consultant psychiatrist Dr Arghya Sarkhel. “The touch of sand and the smell of a seaside breeze leads to relaxation. On a biological level, this audio-visual stimulus incites our parasympathetic nervous system—that activates ‘rest and digest’, as opposed to ‘fight or flight’,” he says. Now scientists are quantifying the positive cognitive and physical effects of water and the improved sense of physical health and well-being.
Equally diving into the therapeutic benefits that diving can provide is Jeffery Puncher, Director for the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottowa. He is currently developing a virtual reality diving programme to help his patients find relief from stress and anxiety–using calming scenes of coral reefs and the swaying seas along with the soothing sounds of bubbles beneath the surface. This programme is currently being used with medical students, residents and faculty, with the goal of growing it to be adopted nationwide to help also support the psychological health of first responders.
3. Provides You with a Sense of Peace
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, has done extensive research on the ocean’s unique ability to induce a state of what he calls the “Blue Mind” in human beings. Blue Mind is a mildly meditative state characterized by calmness, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. Nichols states that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and heal us on a deep level.
4. Enhanced Physical Movement
Being in the water allows you the opportunity to experience a feeling of flexibility and freedom that those with disabilities would rarely get to experience on land. This is because on land the muscles become restricted by the force of gravity. But in the water, that sensation drifts away and is replaced by the freedom to feel the freedom of movement.
5. Confidence and Control
The freedom of enhanced physical movement in the water also provides a sense of increased confidence and control. They can explore beneath the surface just like able-bodied people can do, which equally increases their own self-belief and feelings of empowerment.
6. Anxiety Relief
Those with disabilities who equally suffer from anxiety can find tranquility beneath the surface. By having to focus on your breath and being in the moment, all of the mental stress that can come with having a disability is no longer top of mind and instead allows for an escape in which you can truly enjoy the moment.
Find out more at www.padi.com
Scubapro Winter Promo: free gift!
Divers can look forward to the cold-water season this winter, as SCUBAPRO is offering a free K2 Light undersuit set (top & pants) to all scuba enthusiasts who purchase an EVERDRY 4.0 neoprene dry suit by 15 January.
The EVERDRY 4.0 is a high-quality dry suit made from compressed neoprene. It combines the slim fit, comfort and flexibility of a wetsuit with the warmth and tightness of a dry suit.
The K2 Light Set is the ideal undergarment for neoprene dry suits. Its light grid plush material reliably holds the warmth where you need it in cold waters. The Everdry’s elastic wrist loops and heel strap suspenders keep sleeves and pants in place under the suit. Available in men’s and women’s sizes.
A combination that turns your cold-water lake into a hotspot!
For more information visit the Scubapro website.
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