I stand in the doorway of the plane as it hangs high above the fields. My legs are trembling slightly under me as I go through a mental checklist in my head. The parachute has been checked and re-checked and checked again but I run through it in my mind once more anyway. There is nothing left to do now but jump, but I’m afraid. Tandem Skydives are a thing of the past. This time, I jump alone.
I had always been a quiet careful girl. I didn’t play in the road, go out late or stray too far from home. I didn’t lie to my parents and sneak off to festivals or pretend to be at my friend’s house at night when really I was with a guy. I didn’t have unprotected sex with random one night stands met in nightclubs or drink until I was sick. I did everything right to make sure I was safe as I grew up. Then, 2 days before my 16th birthday I get the worst news.
Hodgkins Lymphoma to be exact. I just thought it was a silly lump. I was one of the lucky ones. The hospital had a Teenage Cancer wing and I responded really well to Chemo. Not everyone was that lucky.
I fell in love for the first time in that hospital too. Jamie was cheeky and fun and he taught me to take risks and have fun. He said things like “Life’s too short” and “Laughter is the best medicine”. We played pranks on the nurses and snuck out of the ward to wander round the hospital and talk to old people about their lives. Jamie once said to me
“Notice how they only talk about regretting things they didn’t do?”
The night before I was due to leave hospital I snuck into his room and we talked late into the night, curled up together on the narrow hospital bed.
“I’m going to miss you Jamie. I don’t want to go. I wish I could stay here with you.”
“What? Are you mad? You’re in remission. Going home means you’re getting better. You get to go home and see your friends. You get to walk in the park and watch the wildlife around you. You get to visit museums and art galleries and parks and zoos and other countries if you want to. Don’t waste your life away sitting in a hospital you don’t need to be in. If I was allowed out of here I would be gone so fast…” He trailed off, looking at me.
“Leanne, remember what that old man said to us? Mr Tompkins? Memento Mori. Remember that you will die. Make every day count. You might have fewer than you think.”
I never saw him again. He died a week after I went home.
I look down at the fields far below me and whisper
“Memento Mori. For Jamie”
I take a deep breath, opening my arms wide, and jump.