Different cultures have various way to commemorate coming of age. Jewish tradition has bar or bat mitzvah’s; Hispanics have quinceanera and on Vanuatu in the South Pacific, they have modified bungee jumping.
Last year was my 40th Birthday and Chelsie turned 18. In an effort to commemorate the privilege of hitting these milestones, we decided on our own coming of age ceremony; skydiving. Unfortunately, last year Chelsie was 3 days shy of her legal 18th birthday and for some reason no company in Arizona would let me legally sign for her to jump, so we shelved the idea…for a year.
We made our skydiving appointment for Tuesday, February 27th and even invited my younger brother Brian to accompany us. My father completed our family quartet to chauffeur us back home post jump and take some pictures.
When we arrived on Tuesday, we filled out some paperwork and promised to not sue Skydive Phoenix if we accidentally died.
We met our tandem jump guides and a few other adventurous souls, and got all suited up. When we headed out to board the plane the wind started kicking up.
Informing us we were going to be delayed, our guides checked the weather forecast and confirmed a storm was moving in, telling us the conditions were no longer safe to jump. They offered a refund or a return trip. After some discussion, we opted to get up super early and be on site at 7:30 am for our jump, because Chelsie and I were scheduled to fly home to Utah that afternoon.
Wednesday, February 28th was a cool 40 degrees when we boarded the plane, bound for 14,000 ft and our 1 minute free-fall back towards earth. The cool temps made me both excited, nervous and grateful to be making such a fun memory with family.
It was decided Chelsie would jump first, so when they opened the hatch and I saw my daughter get sucked out, I started to feel like a worried parent.
Next went Brian, head first and barrel-rolling.
Sitting on the edge of the plane, my feet hanging down midair and realizing I was going to jump out of a plane, I really hopped skydiving actually was safer than driving.
The rest is simply history.
I now know why 500,000 people skydive in the United States for the first time each year. The views were glorious; free-falling from nearly the highest point on earth that I’ve ever hiked was phenomenal. I felt excitement, energy and gratitude. When the parachute opened and we slowly drifted back towards the ground, I felt no fear, anxiety, pain or worries; I felt like praising God!
So many people do not get the opportunity to live to be 19 or even 41. Everyday that we walk on this earth and breathe is a gift others do not experience. Coming of age with Chelsie reminded me what priceless gift growing older is and the privilege of making new memories with family. One skydiving milestone memory down; four more kids to go!