In every relationship there are stories of what “came before”, the things that defined the person you are currently in a relationship with, before you met them. Sometimes you’ll hear these stories second hand. Sometimes the person in question will tell you the stories that meant the most.
My husband did skydiving when he was young. It all started when he (then a young journalist) got given/got cajoled into/picked up a story about skydiving – and thought he wanted to try it out for himself before he wrote the story. The flirtation turned into a fullfledged love affair, and he went on to make many jumps. His stories about that part of his life included:
- the time he landed on a watermelon. SQUARELY. It shattered, of course, and he wore Watermellon Bottom all the way as he trudged back to base, after – followed by a squadron of curious bees who were taking rather too close an interest in his butt.
- the time he landed on the “wrong” side of a canal bisecting a field – the base camp was across the canal and maybe a ten-minute walk across the field. Alas, the canal was deep, so it could not be waded but had to be swum, and just wide enought that it couldn’t be leaped over, it had to be swum. This was a problem in that the water that had to be swum in… contained water moccasins. Hubs elected to walk the long way around, rather than chance the encounter with a snake which took exception to his invasion of its habitat.
- the time he and his friend went up to do a jump that would prove just how “safe” skydiving was, to the parents of an 18-year-old girl who wanted to try it. Unfortunately his pal saw, as he was coming in to land, that he was about to land squarely on a cow skull complete (somehow) with horns – either way, not a good place to hit the ground. He twisted sideways to avoid it, and landed on the wrong ankle, badly, so came limping back to the aforementioned parents with assurances that he was absolutely fine but grimacing with the pain. Hubs had issues with his main parachute, and then realised that his emergency chute cord had tangled itself around his leg – but he had no choice but to pull that, and as a consequence garrotted his knee with it, so HE came limping back to base assuring the parents that yeah this was REALLY safe. I can’t say I would have believe those two wrecks, if I had been that girl’s parents…
- The time he landed on the tarmac, with his hip and thigh leading – when he showed the purple hip-to-knee bruise to his friend, afterwards, the friend CALLED HIS WIFE and made hubs drop trou to reveal the spectacular size and colour of it to the woman.
There’s more. He had a lifetime of these stories. And he loved ever moment of it, he would tell me in great sensual detail what it felt like to fly through the bright air before the chute kicked in, the sounds, the sight, the touch of the sky as he fell through it down towards the waiting earth.
This was also the man who owned his own plane for a little while.
This was a man who, before his eyes stopped cooperating fully much to his regret and he could no longer see them clearly, would spend long silences gazing raptly up into the night sky full of stars. This was the man who went to several launches at Cape Canaveral, including a night launch, and told me all about that, too.
He was always in love with wings, with flight, with the sky.
Burying him in the ground would have been a crime.
So I contacted a local skydiving club and asked if they would be willing for somebody to scatter his ashes on a jump… and they agreed, and this is going to happen the day after what would have been our 21st weding anniversary. One last skydive, for the man whose soul lived up there, the man who’d always had wings – at the very least, I felt them closing around me, when we got married, protecting and cherishing me, guarding me from the winds of the world. They were there right until he died. The memory of them is there still, will always be. And the last thing I could do for him was… this. GIving him back to the sky that he loved. So that every time I took a breath of air or looked up at the moon or caught the smell of frost in autumn mornings or felt the touch of wind brush past my cheek… he would be there, in the sky. He would always be there. He is gone from my side but he will now be all around me.
Good bye my love and may the stars shine the brighter for the presence of your bright soul which will fly amongst them.