Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The gift of a life

Traditions in skydiving.

There are so many and it is one of the things I loved about the sport when I jumped. For example, whenever you do something for the first time, you will here a chorus of "Case of Beer!!!" The skydivers will hold you to it too. They will expect that you bring a case of beer the next time you are at the drop zone.

One of the other traditions is the gift given to your rigger when you have a reserve ride. You see, each skydiver has a main parachute and a reserve parachute. If for some reason your main fails you, your reserve is there ready for you. It's your "Plan B", or as morbid as it sounds, your last chance to live. Your rigger is the one responsible for maintaining it, making sure it is packed perfectly so that it will deploy when you need it most. Whenever a skydiver is forced to deploy his reserve, it's considered a "save". Your life was "saved". The rigger is given a gift for making sure that reserve opens as perfectly as possible giving the skydiver another day and another chance at life. This wonderful life.

In the past, the rigger was given his favorite alcoholic drink. My husband, who is an FAA Master Rigger, first brought home Guiness. Then he began to bring home wine. I was able to enjoy the reds and whites his customers brought to him. It was fun to see what he brought home. I can't remember how many saves Mike has now, but I was one of his first.

Last night, Mike came home late from a long day and handed me a small box. He said, "I got this for a save." I looked at the box and saw 120gb. Hmmm. "A back-up drive?" I asked.

"No. It's 12,000 songs"

Process that for a minute folks. TWELVE THOUSAND SONGS. I took it all in. "Mike, that's like $12,000 worth of music".

Mike told me that a customer, Steve, brought the little back-up drive in with 12,000 songs. Six decades worth of music. His gift to Mike for his "save".

I felt like a little kid! I couldn't wait to look at the songs that Mike had gotten as a gift. I KNOW it was his but the size of the files meant that it had to go on our home computer which has about a terabyte.

It took like AN HOUR to download. I paced. I waited. I dreamt of all the songs that would be on the list. Would there be duplicates? What were his favorites? I almost felt like I was about to meet someone. Someone important.


The songs were download and I started to scroll. I grinned. Then giggled. I laughed out loud. Who do I pay first?

Janis Joplin! The Beatles! Garth Brooks! Mary Chapin Carpenter!

There were familiar favorites. There were new ones by artists I didn't know. There was depth here. This was someone open to all music. He explores different genres. This wasn't a music snob but a music lover. Someone like me. Good music fills my soul. My music collection soothes an aching heart, focuses a scattered brain, lifts my spirit and calms my hectic day. I can relive favorite memories as the first few notes are played.

This collection had years of careful thought into it. Not every song from every album was included. He picked his favorites. The ones that moved him. This was more than a gift. THIS was filled with passion and love and intensity and frivolity. His memories and experiences all were represented by the songs that filled this little box.

I think the gift of the music kind of hit me. Skydivers are by nature, risk takers. Regardless of what you read or hear, it is a calculated risk. They are confident that their reserve will open, that they are safe to some extent. But it's huge you know...falling from the sky...and 120 square feet of fabric opening above your head, slowing you down to the point that you can run or walk out of your landing. Do we take for granted that it will open each time? Expect it to be there so that when it happens, it's a non event?

I can't speak for all of the skydivers but the irony of this moment was so clear to me. A life in music.

A little box with 120gb. HIS LIFE. In music and words and melody. His life in a little box. Given to Mike as a gift. A gift of thanks for HIS LIFE.

~ Stephanie

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