'Loving LIFE' and skydiving

Debbi Brawley of Greers Ferry and her daughter, Rachel Ferguson of Little Rock, are “Loving LIFE” in a unique way — skydiving.

The two have been training at Skydive Dallas, a USPA (United States Parachute Association) dropzone. Their interest was sparked by a Jeb Corliss wingsuiting video on YouTube called “Grinding the Crack.”

“I was home for Thanksgiving in 2012 and showed it to mom, who was immediately captivated by the possibility of human flight,” Rachel said. “But in order to wear a wingsuit, one must have 200 free fall skydives.”

Their skydiving journey began with Debbi and Rachel doing a tandem jump for Debbi’s 55th birthday. “Before even touching the ground after that first jump, we both were eager to get back in the air,” Rachel said.

Both women were immediately drawn to the sport. “While it is difficult to articulate to someone who has never done it, for me it is absolute freedom,” Rachel said. “For the minute that I am in freefall, everything else fades away. There is only the present moment: me, the sky and my fellow skydivers.

“Also, it is pretty amazing to exit the plane and be able to see the curvature of the earth. And being under canopy is pretty cool too. I’ve been flying about 200 feet above a red-tailed hawk before!”

Rachel and Debbi admit they’ve heard the typical comments about the hazards of skydiving.

“My thought is how many people have been saved by skydiving? I know of people who were in despair, even of life. And then they found skydiving, and it changed their lives,” Debbi said. “What a lot of people don’t know is that skydiving is more than just a physical activity. Yes, you have to be in good shape to skydive, but it is also a very technical sport. And then there is the emotional part — the joy of freefall and of seeing others in the sky with you.”

Debbi said skydiving has also brought them new friends. “No one cares what you do for a living or how much money you have or what kind of past you have. When you’re at the dropzone, you’re a skydiver. That’s it.”

Rachel said sharing skydiving with her mother has been enjoyable. “We are both excited to participate in this sport that we love. Driving to the dropzone together and cheering each other along has been pretty special,” she said. “There are a few father-son jumpers at the dropzone, but as far as we know, we’re the only mother-daughter team. What has been pretty amazing about this whole process is watching the dropzone gather around us and support us through it.”

Both women feel that skydiving has changed their lives.

“I am so grateful to have found this sport when I did. It has changed how I look at life, how I experience the world around me,” said Rachel. “I think most people are asleep as they go through life. I think to a certain extent, I was, too. Skydiving woke me up.”

“I want to encourage other women,” Debbi said. “Don’t dismiss your dreams because they seem impossible. Set goals and work toward them. Even the journey is worthwhile. Life isn’t over at 50!”

To see a Zach Lewis video of Debbi and Rachel sky diving, visit http://youtu.be/0KTvMfKhpJ8.