I’ve been skydiving four times. Aside from simply having always wanted to skydive, the first three jumps I jumped on very significant days. Two out of the four jumps I jumped with the same guy, Chucky. The first time I strapped myself to a strange man (not Chucky) and allowed him to jump out of a perfectly good airplane I was 19 and I was about to go to a potentially, life changing doctors appointment. I was scared of the results I was about to receive so I felt that was the best time to finally make this check on my bucket list. The second time I strapped myself to a strange man (finally, Chucky!!) and allowed him to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I was 21 and it was fathers day. After my brother in law and I jumped the first time, we had the whole family, with the exception of mom, wanting to strap themselves to strange men and let them jump out of a perfectly good airplane. With mom standing in the landing field, it was an incredible day to jump with the whole family. The third time I strapped myself to the same strange man and allowed him to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I was 22 and it was my wedding day. Yes, for those of you who did not know, I was engaged for a year and five weeks before our wedding he walked away. Thank God!!! The fourth time I strapped myself to a strange man and allowed him to jump out of a perfectly good airplane I don’t feel the need to talk about. Each of my first three jumps happened on very meaningful days and each jump my heart was changed in very meaningful ways.
The first jump wasn’t too memorable. It was a very typical “first jump” that everyone experiences. However, we were quite lucky because it just so happened to be a cloudy day. Some would say that makes for a terrible jump because you can’t see much, but I found it to be perfect. I believe every person in the world has imagined what it would be like to play in the clouds. This day I experienced that! Falling through the clouds was more amazing than I could ever describe. The clouds were so cold with a slight dampness to them and the freshest smell I’ve ever smelled. Truly incredible!!
The second jump however, brought much laughter and even some disgust to everyone, but me. Long story short, Chucky decided to do lots of flips and spins after the shoot was released. I’ve never been known to have a weak stomach but for some reason, on that day, my stomach couldn’t handle it. Screaming at the top of my lungs because the wind was so loud, I tried to warn him that I was going to be sick, but he just laughed and kept going. With the loud wind I don’t think he actually understood what I was saying. Once I finally felt as though I couldn’t take it any longer, I laid my head back on his chest, reached down and tightly grasped his pants with my hands because it was the only thing I could find for my hands to squeeze. He finally understood what I was trying to warn him of just minutes before. He stopped all his ‘tricks’ and began sweet talking me, trying to keep me from losing it while still in the air. The ground was finally so close, I could see all of my family standing there, looking up at me because of course, I was the last one to jump. Everyone was waving and smiling with their eyes glued to me. And just before we came into our landing, I lost it…. Luckily, the wind was still strong enough to blow it to the right side so that it didn’t land on us or anyone down below, but that wasn’t the end of it. The nastiness that was coming out of my mouth, didn’t fully let go. It blew to my cheek and instead of blowing away in the wind, it just flapped off the side of my cheek. I reached up and wiped it away but then the next problem came, I had on shorts that were completely covered up by the terribly uncomfortable harness that was keeping me strapped tightly to Chucky. So what do I do with this hand full of vomit? I reach down to the same place I was just grasping so tightly to a few seconds prior, Chucky’s pants. Not only did I vomit in the air, while being strapped to Chucky, I also wiped the vomit on his pants. Hoping the embarrassment would end there, it didn’t… In the midst of the ‘only happens in movies’ moment I just had, I had forgotten that I paid extra to have a camera man to not only capture pictures of my jump, but to also video my jump. Because he landed just a bit too late, he didn’t see me vomit. What does that mean? That means he was quickly unstrapping his shoot and getting the video camera ready while I was vomiting. Why is that so bad, Lisa? Well, let me tell you… I just needed a second to lie there and breathe and hopefully not vomit again. Instead of getting that, I land and the second I look up there is a camera in my face with a super stoked man behind it asking me to share how incredible my jump was. My pale and covered in vomit face and the fact that I wasn’t jumping up with excitement, but instead, continuing to lay on Chucky, didn’t seem to click with him. He kept asking over and over, “so tell us how your jump was”. Finally, after a few seconds, which for me felt like 5 hours, Chucky reached up and slapped the guy and told him to go away. After a minute of continuing to lie on Chucky and drink a bit of water, I was just fine. Of course I had to deal with my whole family and all of the staff at Skydive the Farm make fun of me for the rest of the day. Actually, they all still make fun of me three and a half years later.
Now for the third jump… I should have been in a car, driving to Florida to spend my honeymoon trip with mom, but… I decided I needed to do something much more exciting than that. It was my NOT wedding day after all. Thankfully, I have the greatest best friend in the world, Brookie. She and I woke up way too early and headed out to spend the day with Chucky, jumping out of an airplane. At this point we had both strapped ourselves to him and let him jump out of a perfectly good airplane so we both wanted to jump with him again on this day. The problem with that is, we were both jumping at the same time and since they only allow one person to be strapped to Chucky, we had to decide who was going to be the lucky girl. This is why Brookie is the best. After debating it the whole car ride, as soon as we get there, Brookie says she was just giving me a hard time and of course I’m going to be the one to jump with him since this was ‘my day’. As soon as we get there, Brookie and I both inform everyone that it’s my NOT wedding day. Most of you probably think that it should have been a sad time and I probably received a lot of apologies and hugs… NOPE… it was just the opposite! Everyone, including myself, was happy! The high fives and cheers of the day was, “Happy NOT Wedding Day!!!” It was a celebration to say the least. On the bus ride to the airport it was Brookie and I in a bus with about 20 men. They asked if I had my bachelorette party and I said no. They decided I would then have my bachelorette party on the bus…. I’ll just say that it got a bit crazy. haha! Free dances, kisses and lots of other things I denied were offered. Lots of laughs were had and it was a great time. We finally made it to the airport and just before we climbed into the plane, Brookie says; “this is it, Little Lisa. This is where you leave it all behind. When you jump out of that plane, let it all go. Let him go, let the pain go, let the disappointment go. Leave it all in the past and just fall into your future. It’s going to be a beautiful future, I promise, but you have to leave it all up there in that plane.” Very emotional already to say the least. Once we were all piled into the plane and up in the air, the ‘bachelorette party’ continued. Everyone kept begging me to kiss at least one guy and I kept saying no so just before Chucky strapped us together, he grabbed my face, turned me around and kissed me in front of everyone. With all the cheers that erupted you would have thought we were at a NFL game. I do believe Chucky received a high five from every person in the plane. Then the big moment had arrived…. I was standing at the door, looking out at the world from 14,000 feet, thinking about what Brookie had just told me. This is my moment is what I kept telling myself. No, I wasn’t naive enough to believe that jumping out of this airplane was going to heal my heart, it was simply symbolic and a way of release. It was my moment to put my past behind me and move forward into my future and that’s just what I did. Because Chucky was afraid I would get sick again, as soon as the shoot was released he leaned into my arm and asked how I was feeling. My response was this “I’m feeling just fine, but I’m crying…” Somehow he managed to guide the shoot with just one hand the rest of the time. With his other hand he held tightly to mine the entire time while telling me how amazing my future is going to be. He told me to soak up and take in every second we’re up there because once we put our feet back on the ground my life was only going to look up from there. He also told me how he is so happy that I’m only crying on him this time instead of vomiting on him. Once we made our landing, Chucky wrapped his arms around me and in the sweetest voice ever he said “Happy NOT Wedding Day!” 🙂 Then my dear Brookie comes running towards me and squeezes me as tight as she could. We cried and cried and cried and cried and then we cried a little more. It was truly a life changing moment. It was beautiful! After getting back to the warehouse everyone cheered and partied and continued with the ‘happy not wedding day’ cheers. Chucky silenced everyone and said he had an announcement to make. He informed everyone, including myself that I am the one girl he is always going to remember for two reasons. Reason #1 I was the first person to ever vomit on him while in the air and reason #2 I was the first person to ever cry on him while in the air.
The reason I’m babbling about these experiences is because there is one thing that Chucky said to me during each jump that years later has played on repeat in my head today. Every time we jumped he would constantly yell in my ear, “Look out, Lisa, don’t look down. When you look down you miss all of the beauty of the jump. There is so much to see, but if you look down you will miss it.” He was right. When I looked down all I saw was the ground getting closer and closer, but when I looked out I saw everything as far as my eye could see. I saw the blue sky, the white clouds, the beautiful mountains, the thousands of green trees and all of that mixed together made for the most beautiful picture possible.
I know this is probably cheesy, but remembering those words he told me years ago has completely changed my current situation. Nine days ago my life completely changed. Everything I thought my life was going to be, disappeared. Needless to say, my head has definitely been down. It’s been down to hide the tears and sadness and it’s been down in hopes people would pass by me without saying anything. Living in community on this ship makes it really hard to have bad days without everyone knowing your business so that is why my head has been down. Looking up would mean I would have to look people in the eye and let them see the sadness in my eyes. If I looked up I would be forced to smile at people and if I looked up I would have to see happy people and that’s certainly the last thing I’ve wanted. I’ve wanted to simply keep my head down and sulk in my own misery. However, with Chucky’s words playing again and again in my head today, today was different. My heart is hurt and broken and walking around with my head down hasn’t made it any better so I decided to try something different. Today I decided to take Chucky’s advice. Today I looked out. Today I looked out at everything going on around me. Today I decided to put my current situation aside and see what’s happening all around me. Today I saw smiling people who made me smile. I saw happy people who made me happy. I saw sweet notes to me from people who love me posted to my door. I saw our sweet patients enjoying the fresh air on deck 7. I saw so many who genuinely love and care about me. I saw the beautiful and endless ocean and sky. I saw the sunset. I’m living in Africa, on a hospital ship so you can imagine there’s was so much for me to see. Today I saw the beauty that surrounds me and brings healing to my broken heart because I decided to look out. Today was beautiful and perfect. I think I’m going to keep looking out instead of looking down. Like my amazing friend, Marije continues to tell me, it’s about finding good moments in the days and then you will soon find that you’re having good days instead of only good moments. She is right! Thanks to Chucky’s skydiving advice and Marije’s words of wisdom, I think my good days are just around the corner!