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Leaping into a new lease of life

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by Hayley Gardner

When my dad came back to the UK after working in Australia he found himself getting very sick very quickly. I was with him from the first appointment to the last Hospice at Home visit. When it became clear he was going to die he made me promise I would be brave and have new adventures.

We had talked about doing a tandem skydive and when the St Wilfrid’s Hospice newsletter came home I knew I had a promise to keep.

Sitting in the plane as we circled around for the clearest skies I felt every kind of emotion. The instructor didn’t do a count down before we jumped which meant it was all quite sudden, which was actually a relief. Before I knew we were doing it we were out of the plane!

It was such a surge of adrenaline, time passed quickly but also seemed to keep still somehow. I had a clearer head than I had had in months!

After pulling the cords I got to steer us a bit and we gently spiraled around through a cloud. All I saw was white, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face but felt the cloud like it was steam all around me, yet not actually wetting my face.

When we did land the instructor planted us softly into the ground with all the parachute streaming behind us. It was surreal thinking I had just done a skydive! I was glowing for days and days afterward. I was so proud to have honoured the promise I made to my father.

I definitely came down a different person. I looked at life a different way after all the care and support St Wilfrid’s had given us after my dad died. The jump was part thank you for all that. We could never repay all that compassion they showed us.

It inspired me to go in to the Open University to study toward nursing so that one day perhaps I can care for others going through a difficult time.

For anyone thinking about doing it I say do it. Stop thinking and start doing. It will give you so much confidence and pride. Having all my family and friends there filming me on Facebook and welcoming me with loving hugs was a beautiful memory to cherish forever.

Hayley Gardener jumping out of the plane
 

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