I Turned My Will and My Life Over 10,000 Feet Above Boise, Idaho
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
As I stepped outside onto the footing of the airplane I was in 10,000 feet above the earth I realized there were only two options once I jumped out that open door. I was either going to live or I was going to die. The options were that simple – no other choices existed. So I jumped.
What would possess a completely normal person to jump out of a completely good plane? I hear that question often. Well, first of all, I am not normal. I am far from that. I am an alcoholic in recovery so normal is something I will never be again – if I ever was to begin with. But, that’s not the answer to my question. It may explain my irrationality or insane reasoning behind doing something so dangerous, as I have always lived for the thrill. But, what I experienced in those short moments between the open door of that plane and the ground beneath my feet when I landed is what I believe to be a profound “spiritual experience” or enlightening.
What started out as a mission to overcome my fear of planes and flying became something entirely different. From the moment I arrived at the airport, met my jump master, was suited in my gear, and briefly given my instructions, I did not have a moment to second guess my “great idea”. The door closed and the plane lifted off. With not an ounce of alcohol or chemical in my body I stared in shock as the ground slowly disappeared beneath the clouds. What the hell was I thinking during those moments between lift off and the door opening back up?
I was praying - that one thing is for sure. I was also thinking about how much I loved my family and how they were all down below me waiting for my safe arrival. I thought about so many of our moments together again and wondered if I’d get to have anymore with them after today.
Then the door opened. My instructor attached himself to me, yelled final instructions into my ear, and stepped out onto the ledge outside the door with my foot following. As instructed, I let out a scream to empty my lungs, flung my head back, and leapt out into the wide open sky without a second thought.
Legs tucked under him, arms out to my side, the rush of 200 miles an hour against my chest, and as I fell from the clouds and the earth appeared before me all I could think was “WOW”!!!! “I want to die this way”. The adrenaline was more intense than any high I had ever experienced and my blood was pumping it through every vein in my body. The euphoria was sublime – intense. I was in love with the free fall.
Here I was plummeting at over 200 miles an hour towards the ground and I couldn’t have been happier. All my fears vanished into the thin air I traveled on. Nothing mattered anymore but the experience I was having. I had no thoughts for those brief moments. I had found true peace and serenity. Then, the parachute opened and thrust me upwards without warning and the free fall was over. Temporarily I was disappointed. I had been shocked out of my perfect space in time. Then it hit me.
I began yelling in delight, tears streaming from my eyes and into my goggles. Before me was the greatest show I’d ever seen. It was earth. It was happening right below me, all around me, and I had nothing to do with it or anything that was occurring at that very moment. It was existing perfectly without me. It was beautiful – breath taking. I could never find enough descriptive words to do it justice. You have to take my word on this one if you’ve never experienced it. And, if you have experienced it then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
With the parachute open we began to glide effortlessly through the skies. Time slowed down and I got to take in all the sights, sounds, smells, the feel of the air against me, and the taste of the few tears that escaped my goggles. I saw what my higher power needed me to see – his creation – what he was in charge of.
It was then that my family came into view below me as little dots jumping around, hollering. With each moment their faces became more clear and I could see their expressions. They were so happy – my little family and friends. They were all part of the big picture and huge part of my picture. At the moment I first saw their expressions it dawned on me. There was no heaven or hell. Life and this earthly experience was what we made it – either heaven or hell. We created our divine story or our own tortured misery. Below me was my little slice of heaven on earth and loved each of them so very much.
I looked up at the man strapped to my back who had taken responsibility over seeing to it that I landed safely so I could return to them. Like a lightening bolt I realized I didn’t even know this man’s name. He was a complete stranger who I had handed my very life over to and trusted in to safely get to the ground. I knew nothing of him yet I trusted in him. Why?
Then the question I can never forget was asked by me. If I was so willing to trust a complete stranger with my life, how come I couldn’t fully trust my higher power who was in charge of all of this? It was then that I learned the true meaning of what “surrender” meant to me.
I said a quiet prayer just as our feet touched ground. My “spiritual experience” happened for me then as I turned my will and my life over to God, as I understood him, for the first time in my 40 odd years. I gave it all back to him, kissed the ground I was on, disconnected from my chute, let out a cry of freedom and rushed to embrace my family. I was finally home. I had come to. I had found freedom. I knew what heaven felt like. I was looking at it in the faces of those I loved.
~Tami Harper Winn~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author through works cited.