Skydiving puts all your earthly fears into manageable perspective. It inspires such complete focus of attention that all other worries, aggravations and frustrations are forgotten. Dirkie van der Merwe decided to take a break from his usual routine and reach for the skies!

With the paperwork on my table piling up and my hands on the back of my neck I'm thinking, "nothing's getting done, and it's not going to." I decided... STOP! I look up, holding my face between my spread fingers and looking back at me in the reflection of a sleep-mode PC screen, I see a prisoner behind bars yearning for an opportunity to feel alive again. I've been locked up... with a ball and chain. The only difference was that I had a key to my freedom, which was the number of my most beloved, well known, physiotherapist and friend, Melanie Skeen. The telephone call took two seconds, "Melanie we're going skydiving."

'Erm, Ok?''.

I don't think either of us had really thought this through as we arrived at Witbank airfield, our minds thinking a thousand thoughts. The divers swished in, one after the other as we sat there trying to shake the reality of what was about to happen. All I knew was that it was playtime. I hadn't thought of a PC, or a demanding client all day which meant I was already headed in the right direction - even though it was vertical, and to the tune of 10 000 feet! If that was where I needed to go then why would I want to be anywhere else but right where I was?

"Are you Dirk van der Merwe?" said a booming voice grabbing my attention immediately. I guess what made it kind of obvious, was that I was the only guy in a wheelchair who had made a booking for a jump that weekend. And there I was, nervously waiting...

Freedom in skydiving

I expected an army drill sergeant with three stripes on his shoulders, army boots and a battered glass-eye. But Cornige was a kind and light-hearted instructor. His first words to me were, "So you are here? I am glad, as that means that the most dangerous part is now over and you can relax." What an awesome way to start the event!

We went through the safety instructions once, or twice and voila, licensed to fly! Our plane landed and as we approached it I realised once again how fortunate I was to do this.

We were helped into the plane and before we knew it earth looked like a tiny model thousands of feet below. At that height, it felt like reality was suddenly replaced with stupidity, although still with an element of fun. Before I knew it the engine almost came to a dead halt and 'Spider Man' (our camera man) climbed out of the plane like a mantis and disappeared.

"Why are my feet hanging out of an aeroplane at 10 000 feet above ground?" I thought to myself. I almost finished that thought before a sudden feeling of being touched by God encapsulated my whole being. It was the feeling of a freedom, a reality no human brain can process, or comprehend. Then... SLAP! The canopy opens and it's all over. It's by far the fastest 36 seconds of your life. Suspended there, in the quietest moment I have ever shared with mother earth, I uttered under the canopy, "I do not feel paralysed at all".

We remained quiet, as that was how I wanted it to be. When we softly touched down, Corn's replied, "Well Dirk, now you know why birds sing."

I'd like to thank everybody who helped me make this dream come true. It was such a spontaneous reality, a victory in my life and an endless tale to relay about the kind-hearted character of the Witbank Skydiving club!

ri-dot