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Freefallin’ and Living Life Now

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One of our colleagues shared with us his sky diving adventure…we loved the story and pics…and asked Jim to write it up for you….if you ever thought about it….here’s a first hand account:

As I looked out the door, the voice behind me asked, “You ready?”

The next thing I knew I was freefalling at 120 mph 12,000 feet above Assateague Island, off the Maryland coast.

Skydiving is the coolest thing I have ever done -- more exhilarating than zip-lining through the Costa Rican jungle, more calming than kayaking with dolphins on a summer’s morning, and more breathtaking than parasailing over the Gulf of Mexico.

Secretly, I always had want to go skydiving, but life kept getting in the way – work, wife, kids and doing what was expected. Early last summer, my daughter, Jessica, and her boyfriend, Chris, told me they were going skydiving. My jaw dropped, my eyes opened wide and she was afraid I wouldn’t let her go. Then, I blurted out, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

I thought that was the end of it, but for my 59th birthday Jessica and my oldest daughter, Lauren, gave me a skydiving gift certificate. Ugly ties. Underwear. Socks. I don’t care. My girls get a free-pass on presents from here on out. This was the greatest present ever!

When the day finally arrived, I was pumped. But once I walked into the offices of Skydive OC, I had to curb my enthusiasm. I think filling out all the legal disclaimer forms was their way of weaning out those faint-of-heart who didn’t really want to jump.

Anyway, Jessica, Chris and I finally went back for our jumping instructions. We would be tandem jumping, where an experienced jumper is hooked to your back and does all the critical stuff like pulling the rip cord. Still, this is serious business with severe consequences if you don’t do it correctly.

We learned about the importance of falling in an aerodynamic position, how to hold your hands out and the correct way to land. We then got harnessed up and headed to the runway.

A Cessna 182 is not a plane that instills confidence. The way I figured it, we were only going to be in it for a few minutes anyway, and besides, I had a parachute. The Cessna took about 15 minutes to climb to 12,000 feet. Then my jumping partner and lifeguard, Josh, swung the door open, told me to scoot over and hang my legs over the side. For a brief second, I wondered if I was really going to do this.

But there was no time for second-guessing. Before I knew it, we were falling – I mean Skydive OC’s slogan is “Shut up and jump.” The first thing I noticed was how quiet the world is at two miles high. Once the drone of the plane’s engine dissipated, it was completely quiet and peaceful. The hustle and bustle of the world below was literally miles away – no cars screeching, no people talking, not even a bird chirping.

Complete silence.

It was wonderful.

 As Josh and I hurtled through the air, we carried on a quiet conversation just as if we were sitting on the deck sipping mojitos and admiring the sunset over Assawoman Bay. But make no mistake, my adrenaline was pumping. The freefall was so exciting, and I was inhaling every second of it. And then my heart jumped.

About 40 seconds into the fall, the one thing that my survival instinct desperately sought finally happened and the sudden jerk caught me off guard. The parachute had opened, and I was actually somewhat disappointed. The freefall I was so thoroughly enjoying was over, but the experience wasn’t.

As we drifted toward our landing zone, the perspective of the world below was different than I had ever seen. I have flown in planes and helicopters before, but you can’t appreciate the sights below encased in massive metal machines speeding at hundreds of miles an hour.

With the parachute deployed, we floated slowly downward. I could pick out our Ocean City beach house and see all the coves and islands I had explored in my kayak. I even spotted a couple of wild ponies grazing on Assateague.

Finally, the ground was fast approaching. This was the part I feared. Would I land wrong and break an ankle? Twist a knee? Or worst of all, stumble and collapse into an awkward heap, bringing the ride of my life to an embarrassing end. Fortunately, I stuck the landing.

The jump was over. My smile lasted well into the next week. The memory will last a lifetime.

At this point in my life, I’m not ready to search for answers in the Great Beyond, but there are only so many good years left. My bucket list continues to grow. I want to trace my dad’s boot-steps through Europe during World War II. See the Northern Lights and the Southern Cross. Go deep sea fishing and reel-in a 500-pound Bluefin. Write that book I’ve always dreamed about.

We’re only on this earth for a short time, and I want to make the most of it. As my Maddafella tee-shirt reads, “Live Life Now.”

That’s exactly what I plan to do.

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