This post has been nearly two months in the making. Two months of mulling. Two months of reflecting on what I really think about death in this sport. It’s not that I feel obligated to write this post, it’s that I can’t sleep well at night anymore knowing i haven’t written anything about it. Knowing I haven’t said anything about it. Knowing I haven’t fermented any conclusions from my vast experience of “death” these past few weeks and years. Since my friend Stephanie went in skydiving a few months ago I haven’t really been able to stop thinking of the chances of dying in this sport. I mean, we all know there’s that chance, but we skydive anyway. We all know we could get seriously injured, but we skydive anyway. But I think me and most people, before we initiate each jump, have the mindset that we’re gonna live because we’re ready to deal with anything that comes our way. We don’t think about the absolutely absurd or improbable things that could happen. We’re aware they could happen, but we don’t focus on them. We leave them in the corner of our mind as uncertainties, to be dealt with if they improbably arise. But when I think about this last point, I know most people who don’t skydive go about their daily lives with the same assessment. It’s a waste of time and life to worry about every little thing that can go wrong.
I read this amazing article by Chris “Douggs” McDougall about death in the sport and it dawned on me that I’ve gotten really good at dealing with death. Too good. I don’t mean that I don’t think about it, as I previously wrote, what I mean is I’m getting better with loss. Until Max went in just over a week ago. And Jared. Five days before him. It humbled and perplexed me because I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t too angry. I was too good at dealing with friends dying. These past three years have brought so much loss and at some point I just built it into a fact of life. It’s gonna happen. I’m jaded about it. Of course, these realizations came about a week ago – along with the anger at these last two losses – and shorty thereafter I cried and realized my friend wasn’t coming home. I know I just contradicted myself, but it’s momentary.
Max. My buddy who let me stay on his couch for the past two months. Who I dropped off at the airport just a few weeks ago. I didn’t really know Jared, but he was part of my DZ. But Max. Max was my friend. He was my confident. He was my right ear. Yes. I can handle loss easily, but what humbles me and makes me cry is that Max didn’t have to die and yet he chose to live the life he lived and he chose to do the things he did. How can I fault life when it was his own choice? Death isn’t about me and my loss. It’s about life and what we gained from the experience.
The part of me that has gotten good at dealing with death quickly wipes away the tears and smiles at the good times we had. At the funny things he did. At the great life he lived. And I’m left with a feeling that he and the many others who went before are just beyond the veil at a raging party waiting for the rest of us to join them. And they’re telling their great stories of all the times they came so close to death. And then they’re telling their last story – of how they came to be at the party.
I have lost so many friends to this sport it’s unreal. But only a few of them would I consider close friends. Regardless, though, I didn’t really think going into skydiving when I was 21 that I would experience so much death and loss. Nor did I realize that at some point along the journey that loss would transform into a realization of what life really is. The deaths of my friends has given me a grand life experience. What I learned is we might not have as much time as we think. That there are no do-overs. That every moment is precious and worth the effort. To not take yourself so seriously. That everything will work out at some point, so don’t stress about it. That people who are in your life are in your life by choice. That we all must die at some point, and some are in quite a rush to get there. But mostly, and this is the important part, I learned that we all have a part to play in this life and if you can focus more on what part we play, rather than how well we play it, you might feel a whole lot better about this experience we know as life. Play safe, my friends. I’ll get to the party eventually, but I’m not quite finished enjoying the one we got here.