A friend died today.
He was trying a high-speed landing manoeuvre but somehow it went wrong. He hit hard.
He died whilst undergoing surgery.
Timmy’s death brings the number of skydiving friends I’ve lost recently to six, and whilst we all accept the risks, losing a friend always cuts deep.
Why do we do it?
You’d think that when a friend dies the natural reaction would be to lock away the gear and never jump again. Park ourselves in front of the TV and stay safe. Shit, if it can happen to him why can’t it happen to me? Am I next?
I like to think I mitigate the risks involved in skydiving. I maintain my equipment, practice my emergency procedures, and follow the rules. Check and check again.
And check one more time.
I watch out for my friends on the ground and in the air. I pull them up if they’ve overlooked something or if I feel there may be a problem. I watch the weather, the winds, the sky and the ground.
But the bottom line is we are all human. We take the risk and accept the consequences. In a sport where your first mistake could be your last we weigh the risk against the reward. And what an amazing reward it can be.
I often tell non-skydiving friends that I am at my most relaxed when I’m falling to Earth at terminal velocity. They look at me as if I’m mad. Their eyes tell me they don’t believe me.
Well believe it. It is absolute bliss.
There’s a black humour amongst skydivers, and it’s something I think that is shared amongst any group of friends involved in dangerous pastimes. I guess it’s just the Australian way. It’s one way of coping, and perhaps a way of inwardly saying “thank fuck it wasn’t me”.
Whenever someone hurts themselves in our sport we immediately offer help, comforting words and sympathy, but once we know that person is out of danger we give ourselves licence to take the piss out of them.
Timmy didn’t survive, and we can’t take the piss this time. No more beers around the campfire. No more “No shit, there I was” stories. No more rude jokes and insane laughter.
His death is tragic, a huge loss to us all. All of us will miss his evil laugh and his warped sense of humour.
He died because he was truly living.
Is there a better way for it to end?
Farewell my friend.