Spend some time at a skydiving "DZ" (drop zone) or clubhouse and you will walk past hallowed walls. Amid the donated furniture and miscellaneous gear, you'll notice the walls are usually lined with everything from sophomoric humor to tributes for record jumps or record lifetimes.
I spent a few days in the Skydive The Point bunkhouse in West Point, Virginia, and one photograph on one wall just worked me hard - I couldn't get it off my mind. It was of a woman just off of a dive, clutching her gear and holding a big, friendly smile. There was no inscription for the photograph, no dirty jokes scrawled on it. The framed piece just lay on the wall, haunting in its beauty. I was taken by this photograph, and I had to learn more of the subject.
What affected me so much about this photograph? What was in that smile? It was in that smile that I could see a quiet enthusiasm, one that bespoke a passion for life. I decided this after a few days of thought, after seeing that smile wherever I went, after seeing those eyes even when I closed mine. Something about this photograph intrigued me - it caught me.
I asked one of the skydivers, and she told me that the woman had died in a recent world skydiving record attempt in Illinois. She mentioned the woman's name, but I don't remember it - I don't think I wanted to know her name at that point, for I had my own impressions of who she was, and that was enough. We didn't say much else, and we quietly moved on.
I could tell one thing about this person; that she did enjoy life - whoever made this photograph wanted me to know that. I could tell that she took control of her life and that she loved a good challenge - that's the nature of skydiving. I could tell, as unfair as it is, that she liked to smile, and that it was her way of living, and it was her way of giving.
Looking into those eyes, that smile, and seeing the energy caught up in the personality you see as hers, you can't help but feel that when she at last quenched her thirst for life, when her mortal body at last fell to Earth, that ever so slightly, the Earth did move.
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