Barak Article

Death, Sheba and Me.
Sunday May 17, 2010

There is nothing so powerful as death, nothing; or should I perhaps say, there is nothing so empowering as death. That idea was the most prevalent, as Sheba and I lay in bed recounting the day's activities.

Now Death and I are not strangers. Having been in the Army Airborne Infantry, been part of a Motorcycle club, ridden tens of thousands of miles on motorcycles, been an ER/Trauma nurse, etc; I would say that we have flirted and met on many occasions. But I am no longer 20, immortal, or jumping out of military aircraft.

I am now 40. Yesterday, I discovered that my relationship with Death has changed. I have always known, somewhere in the dark recesses of my cognizance, that death was a possibility, a risk, a potential outcome of an activity. There was always a continuum with the near side as safety and the distant border being Death. As if Death might be waving from the other end of a huge field. I could see Death there, but not make out all the features; not see the grin, the endless empty stare.

In reality, most of those brushes with Death have been accidental meetings of inopportune timing and chance. That is, until yesterday. You see yesterday, Sheba, Death and I planned out a special date. We decided the three of us were going to sit across a crowded airplane and look each other in the eyes, until one of us blinked.

I realized this as I leaned the majority of my body outside the door. I was first in line to jump, in a small single prop plane at around 2 miles up. Yes, that's 2 miles - about 10,000 feet. I could feel the 80 knot winds whipping across my goggles, as I was trying to reassure myself that the 4 buckles that attached me to the instructor could hold a car.

But I couldn't keep that thought in my head. I was just looking down; straight into Death's glowing eyes. I could see the ground far, far away. In that moment, it came to me. There are only two options: Life or Death. When you jump from this height and something goes wrong? There isn't a "well," a "possibility," or a "maybe." It's a certainty. Gravity always wins.

It was simple really. Did I want to live or die? At that second, everything else faded. Death stared at me, I stared back. I made my decision. I wanted to live, really live. I watched Death blink. I grinned, leaned forward, winked at Death, and we jumped!

We tumbled for a moment, and then assumed the freefall position - and were speeding toward the earth at well over 130mph. We dropped like that for over a mile! It was like mainlining the most amazing drug ever. Liquid exhilaration in a rapid infused IV push!

We popped chute, and drifted the remainder down to the earth. That part was what I remembered from my spent youth: The Quiet. The space to contemplate the decision made moments ago. So as I was drifting lazily toward the ground, I made my decision again. Someday, Death and I will meet, shake hands and call it even. But until then, I intend to keep grinning - and Living!

And Sheba? Don't worry about her. She jumped after me, and still made it to the ground faster! I swear I saw her give Death the finger as she blew past me on her way to make a single check mark in her Bucket List!


(return to main library page)