Most of you have heard by now… last Saturday, August 15, I lost my older brother Dr. Guy Russell “Rusty” Garman in a scuba diving accident off the Virgin Islands coast. Much of his adult life he was known as Guy. We knew him as Rusty. As I type these few thoughts out, I know that many of you have lost loved ones who have been very close to you. How many times have we prayed for someone… cried with someone… embraced one another… and other times just sat there in quietness. A few days ago, after learning of my brother’s death, I decided to begin a personal journey, once again, through the Book of Job. It doesn’t take long in the story that we learn of Job’s loss of everything. Possessions… family… and health. One of the things I’m amazed at, in the story, is the order of destruction and loss.
Satan first went after all of Job’s possessions. Then he attacked Job’s children. THEN he went after Job’s health. Most of us who have journeyed through grief and sorrow know of the pain and heartache death brings. I do not want to, in any way, minimize the pain of boils… all over one’s body… but Satan blew it by thinking that the worst for Job would be for him to experience boils. I believe that Job’s greatest loss happened when word came to him that his children had all perished when the house crumbled upon them. That was the worst news of all. That hurt. And he immediately went in to grief.
My brother was a great doctor. He was an ENT doctor living in St. Croix, Virgin Islands where he had a great practice established. His specialty was skull base surgery where he performed numerous operations on people from all over. I am told that more than 50% of his patients were Spanish speaking families. He was gracious and compassionate to them and enjoyed conversing in their native language. Perhaps it brought back memories of the many procedures he had performed in the Amazon jungle on some of his mission’s trips to the Aguarunas and Mestizos there at New Horizons.
He was part of a ministry group called Church on the Sands there in St. Croix where he enjoyed reading the scripture and leading in prayer. Rusty loved the Lord as he looked for ways to live out that love through his work and life. One of his close friends, and a fellow minister, informed me the other day that Rusty was always searching for ways to deepen his relationship with Jesus Christ. Each time he visited my brother on the island they would have deep theological discussions on scriptural matters.
As I dig deeper and deeper into this very private man’s life I am discovering that he is much like a tree… a giant sequoia… with roots spreading themselves around rocks and other trees. Things I never knew about him. Things that make me so proud. Things that remind me that his hope was in the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whom I serve. How grateful I am for the words and promise that came from the One who is our eternal hope, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” One day I will see my brother and we will be reunited. Praise be to Jesus!
Rusty has always been a driven, highly motivated man… one with great confidence. I’ve always known this in him. Many people watch me run, and I do, still, enjoy running competitively… but I never was able to run like him. My best times never come close to what he was running. The only good news for me was that several years ago he encountered some knee issues, and had to stop competing. So… I managed to stay close to him after that.
When he moved to the Virgin Islands he happened upon the sport of scuba diving. The more he went into the Caribbean waters… the more he enjoyed it. The more he enjoyed it the deeper he immersed himself in the sport. He soon discovered he could travel deep into the waters… very deep. Before long, he was breaking local records, and diving further than 300 feet below the surface. Last year a partner and him decided to break the Virgin Islands record by diving, together, to a depth of 650 feet, a record that had previous been set at 550. And then earlier in the spring of this year he went solo to a Caribbean breaking record and best in the western hemisphere of 810 feet below sea level. Thus… he was named “Doc Deep”.
People from all across the scuba world were seeking his counsel and advice as he continued to study more and more on going deep. 2 ½ years ago, his plan was to someday break the world record which was set at 1090 feet. His goal this past Saturday was to dive to 1200 feet below the surface. Together, with his son, Kip, and another diver, they went to 260 feet, sharing oxygen on the way down so to conserve his tanks and use as little of energy as possible. Upon arriving at that mark, Kip said his goodbyes to his father, as Rusty continued his descent. The 28 member team, with 3 boats, a full medical staff, and more were all in place.
It was estimated that Rusty would take 38 minutes to descend to the 1200 foot mark, tie the ribbon on the tether, and ascend back to 360 feet to meet up with his first team member. Unfortunately, he never showed up. A dive that was supposed to take 10 hours and 25 minutes did not occur. It would take several days before the Coast Guard and the Police Department would be able to work alongside the team and recover the body. Today, we are still awaiting the report from the medical examiner. But, all of that does not really matter. I lost my brother on Saturday and will miss him very much.
But, I am so thankful for the several phone conversations we had leading up to the dive. We spoke on the phone, laughed about certain past events in our lives… as I asked all sorts of questions about his dive. He knew the dangers of what he was about to do. He reminded us (me) and my folks of his love for the Lord and his passion for this sport. He was determined to go.
So, I have had to let him go. I will miss him. He has always been such a great brother to me. Throughout boarding schools… he was there for me. Through life… he was one I looked up to. Rusty Garman was a great friend to many. St. Croix has lost a special doctor. We have lost a wonderful member of our family. But… only for a while.
I love and appreciate all of the members of the Los Angeles District during these days. Your emails, i-messages and more have been so encouraging. In fact, the Christian community all over the world has been so kind to our family. You can’t imagine the many encouraging responses we are receiving from the U.S., Peru, Ecuador, Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia and more.
I am glad to be a Christian. I am glad to believe in the ONE who is my hope. Jesus Christ is alive and he is preparing a place for all of us who believe in His name. I love you and I look forward to seeing you… hopefully soon.
Pastors… please don’t forget to register for the retreat in just a few weeks. (September 21-23) at Pismo Beach.