I remember when my dad passed away – the world stopped. I could smell the fresh cut grass, I could feel the stillness of the air, I could feel the skin wrapped around my body, and I could feel a sharp pain in my heart.
Yesterday it hit me like a ton of bricks having lost so many friends in skydiving in the strangest year ever (2020) – specifically two such influential people in our sport – Antonio Montano (from Mexico – passed away of COVID 19), and Vince Reffet (from France, living in Dubai part of the jetman team and had a jetman accident).
My pops helped bring the first twin engine plane down to Antonio’s place in Mexico decades ago and ever since we remained part of the Mexican skydiving family. I remained in touch with Antonio (I had also just done a Zoom interview with him a few months ago), we organized at their boogies, and just staying in touch.
I shared a world record skydive or two with Vince and although we weren’t close, I’d bet he’d give me a hug like old friends and say we were friends. Feels like it anyways.
Because of those two, our lives are so much better, richer, and fuller. They’ve inspired, helped dreams come true, and brought a lot of joy to each one of us. They showed us a special and unique way of life through the skies and in our hearts.
People like my dad, Eli Thompson, Wyatt Drews, Orly King, Robby Bigley, Ryan Risberg, Pat McGowan, Pat Works, Carolyn Clay, Jonathan Tagle, Jessica Edginton, Micah Couch, Sandy Wambach, Jonathan Florez, Gage Galle, Dave Brown, Nate Gilbert, Jim Bohr, Deam Potter, Shane McConkey, Marian Kramer, Jimmy Hall, Rob Harris…… Antonio and Vince… they all leave legacies imprinted in our hearts that we will carry and share for the rest of our lives. People will go on to tell their stories, share photos, memories, share their legacies with new skydiving students….
It hurts. Just like the day my dad died.
I don’t ever want to take away from the families and friends who were close to them because I know the burden of having to move forward is heavy, empty, and confusing.
Time is a funny thing. So many say that “time heals all wounds” and “it gets better with time’, but I will have to disagree. My experience is that time simply changes things because the pain will always be there, because that too, has now been imprinted on our hearts. It’s heavy, deep, and unknown. It’s our choices from that moment of loss that define who we are, and what time will really feel like.
My condolences and love to them all.
I cried yesterday. Hard. I have tears welling now. Losing such great people is like a wave that ripples through the entire global skydiving community.
Awhile back someone had asked me, “Why do you skydive if it’s taken so much from you?” I answered, “Because it’s given me SO much more in return.”
We live hard. We love hard. We lose hard. And we always choose to keep living and loving hard.