A lot of things go through your mind when you skydive out of an airplane at 12,500 feet and you realize you forgot to put on your parachute. Things like: “I cannot believe I just jumped out of an airplane at 12,500 feet and forgot to put on my parachute.” That’s my first one.
My next thought is: “I CANNOT FREAKIN’ BELIEVE I’M SO STUPID that I jumped out of an airplane at 12,500 feet and forgot to put on my parachute!” You know what? It’s the damn students’ fault. It was: “I’m going to jump!/I can’t do this!” for, like, four hours straight. It was time to head back and I thought, “Well at least I’m going to get a jump in.” I must have taken off my chute to help them get into/out of their chutes 300 times. Idiot.
Now What’s-her-name’s Five Stages of Grief pops into my head, and I realize I had already gone through Stage 1 (Denial), and Stage 2 (Anger) of coping with death, and I have been in free fall for maybe 10 seconds at about 115 miles per hour, so I have 35 seconds before I normally would deploy my parachute, had I had one; 40 seconds before I would typically pull the cord on my reserve parachute, had I had one of those; 45 seconds before I would really, really want to deploy, well, any parachute to avoid breaking my legs on impact; and 50 seconds before I go “SPLAT!” on the ground, so the usual weeks or months people have to progress through the grief stages after they learn they have a terminal illness doesn’t apply in my situation, so I’d better get a move on, because if Stage 3 (Bargaining) were, by some miracle, to be successful, I would need to initiate negotiations fairly soon, and if that didn’t work, I would prefer to not spend a ton of time in Stage 4 (Depression) but instead advance briskly to Stage 5 (Acceptance), because who wants to be depressed in the last moments of one’s life before his (or her) body is obliterated on impact with the rock-hard earth? Not me.
Bargaining: Haggling with God is nice idea in theory, but one that, unlike the other four stages, requires higher-order reasoning skills, which I’m here to tell you, are a little tough to marshal at a time like this. The “Think Win-Win” principle occurs to me from some self-help book I can’t recall. The “Win” for me, clearly, is not disintegrating in 15 seconds. I can’t really see what’s in it for God, except maybe a pro-God story on the evening news tonight.
Depression: As planned, I’m zipping through the Depression stage. I do quickly note, however, that of all the things in the world I’ll miss—my wife, my kids, my friends—the one that unexpectedly saddens me the most is knowing that I’ll never again get a free slice of pie with any entrée on Wednesdays at Baker’s Square and I’ve always wanted to try the Lemon Meringue.
Oh, right! Win-Win—from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I’m glad I remembered that because it would’ve really bugged me for the next eight seconds.
Acceptance: Ah, a moment of transcendent bliss!…that feels great but, to be frank, not so great that I’d want to meditate for three hours a day or go be some monk in Tibet. I mean, the massage chair at the airport feels pretty great too.
Acceptance! C’mon, focus!
It’s at this point, with my eyes closed and my soul ready to experience life in the hereafter or be reincarnated as a mosquito or whatever, when I land, not on the ground, but on a giant, green, swooping parakeet named Ned, which I know because it says “Ned” on its dog collar, or I guess bird collar.
My first thought is: “I cannot believe I jumped out of a plane at 12,500 feet and forgot to put on my parachute and was rescued by a giant, green parakeet named Ned.” Then I think: “Well, here you go looping back to Denial,” and since the parakeet intervention is a happy development, I can just skip Anger, Bargaining, and Depression, move right to Acceptance, and go get my free slice of Lemon Meringue Pie, if Ned ever lets me down.
Ned! Fly me to Baker’s Square and I’ll split the pie with you! Win-Win!