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  • Geoff Cordner

Leap of Faith

Linda had for many years aspired to jump out of a plane – with a parachute, and with someone who knew what the hell they were doing, attached to her I might add ‑ but this was never high on my own Bucket List. Then some time in 2018 she voiced her ambition aloud in Ben’s presence. His response was immediate: “I’ll do it with you Mum”.

Of course he would. That sort of adrenaline-charged activity was right up Ben’s alley. Just like standing backflips, and high‑speed go-carts. Unfortunately the joint project never got off the ground (so to speak), and Ben’s tragic death ensured it never would.

A few months into our life after Ben, Linda mentioned again what she and Ben had planned to do, this time in front of Tim. I don’t know that it was ever something that high on Tim’s list of must-do things, but he didn’t hesitate: “I’ll come with you Mum, if you still want to go”. And so the seed was sewn.

Within a few days it had been agreed that Tim and Linda would each do their first tandem jumps, and that Tim and Ben’s cousin, Zoe, would join them to do the same. And a few weeks after that the date (coinciding with Linda’s 53rd birthday) and the venue (Wollongong) had been set.

Linda and Tim decided to make a weekend of it, travelling to Shellharbour on Friday, November 8 2019, to stay with Linda’s brother and his family, including Zoe, with the jump scheduled for first thing on Saturday morning. I would be joining them on the Saturday evening, after cricket, and Tim and I would play together in a charity fundraising cricket tournament the following day in Shellharbour.

On the Saturday morning the nervous trio rose with the sparrows, and made their way to the jump site bright and early, with Linda’s sister-in-law, Fiona, playing chauffeur (or should that be chauffeuse?). It was obvious as soon as they arrived at the venue that the Beniverse had especially big plans for the day. The first vehicle the team spotted in the carpark at Stuart Park, Wollongong, with an empty carspace next to it, carried a rego plate bearing the letters BTC - Ben’s initials.

Within minutes of their arrival, registration, and safety induction, they were informed the next jump flight was ready to depart, with three spots to fill. Perfect timing on many fronts, not the least being: no time now to get nervous and back out. This is really happening guys.

Prior to departure each skydiver is introduced to their instructor/jumping partner. Linda, Tim and Zoe, being the last of the group to arrive, were the last to meet their instructors, each of whom would emerge separately from the administration block, and greet their individual skydiving counterpart.

“Hi Zoe, my name’s Isaac and I’ll be your instructor today”. “Hi Tim, I’m C J, and I’ll be your instructor today”. Only one jumper left now – Linda. The final instructor appears. “Linda? Hi Linda, my name’s Ben”. That was all he could get out of his mouth before Linda, unsurprisingly, burst into tears – with Zoe and Tim not far behind her. Hasty explanations having been duly provided to the staff, who were understandably a little taken aback, Linda confirmed she was absolutely definitely OK to proceed with her jump. In fact, if anything, her resolve had been strengthened by this second serendipitous coincidence within a matter of minutes.

Not only would she and Tim and Zoe be doing this for Ben, but she would now, literally, be jumping with Ben. And the remarkable thing was, as she explained to me afterwards, the closer she got to the moment of truth, the moment when she would emerge from a small plane 15,000 feet above the earth, with nothing but a stranger and a bundle of silk attached to her back, the calmer she became. It was as if she knew now for sure that her Ben, our Ben, was there with her, around her, letting her know that everything would be OK.

And when, with the plane reaching its maximum altitude, her instructor Ben informed her that she and he would be the first to go, it didn’t faze her at all. There was no fear; all the trepidation and doubt she had experienced in the weeks leading up to this day had evaporated completely. The sky was crystal clear, the conditions as perfect as they could possibly be for this sort of activity, and now her heart was full.

As a result of which, no doubt, the experience exceeded all her expectations – even moreso having been shared with Tim and Zoe; memories these three will carry with them together forever I am sure.

What none of them could have known during the course of their descent, but would discover upon returning to terra firma, was that while she had been awaiting their arrival at the landing zone (ie North Dalton Park – three kilometres north of Stuart Park), Fiona had observed a vehicle bearing the letters BEN on its registration plate take up a position in the carpark located there.

BTC to farewell them, Ben to see them safely down, and BEN to greet their return.

Eleven days earlier I had tried to explain to Linda what the Beniverse was, and how I felt it was helping me to remain connected with our boy, rather than just lamenting his loss. She didn’t offer much in response, but it was clear she was having trouble accepting what I was saying. And I completely understand why. Because at that point the Beniverse had not yet revealed itself to her.

But at 8.47am on the day of her jump, with all she had seen, heard and felt in the preceding two hours, she was able to send me a simple 2‑word text that said it all, and meant the world to me: “I believe”.


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