Wednesday, June 24, 2020
We often find ourselves telling people how skydiving can be cathartic, therapeutic, or even life changing. But what does that even mean and how can an adrenaline rush serve as catharsis? Bridgett Gleason had just this experience, and while we could talk all day about Bridgett and how her courage inspired us, only she can truly bring justice to what skydiving meant for her and why she chose this “extreme” activity to begin with. Watch Bridgett’s video to hear her story, and in her own words, what skydiving has meant to her!
Bridgett is one of those rare people with the gift of the gab, or as her family describes her, she is a “wordsmith”. Bridgett knows how to captivate with a story, and put into words things that leave most people speechless. According to Bridgett, this is both a blessing and a curse, as it led to her being called upon to eulogize her father at his funeral. Bridgett’s father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in December of 2016, and passed away just 6 short months later on May 17th 2017. Bridgett spoke of how her father used to brag that when she was born and still so small he was the first one to hold her, and on the last night of her father’s life, Bridgett crawled into bed and held him. At the funeral, in front of her father’s family and friends, Bridgett spoke out to her father “You’re my dad, I’m your daughter, I was this big and you held me first. But you’re my dad, you are larger than life, and I held you last.”
One year later, while still grieving the loss of her father, Bridgett found herself struck with heartbreak again on May 17th, this time in the form of betrayal. Bridgett had uprooted her life and moved to St. Louis to follow her then boyfriend for his career. On the anniversary of her father’s death, he cheated. Not only did he compound Bridgett’s loss, he cast a dark shadow over a day that should have been dedicated to remembering her father.
So Bridgett decided to take control of that day, honor her father, and be able to look forward to May 17th. Her father had always encouraged her to take risks and fear head on. He told her, “the things that make you nervous, the things you are afraid of, those are the things you should be doing”. So Bridgett chose to do the most extreme, scary thing she could think of. She decided to jump out of an airplane.
On the day of Bridgett’s skydive, inclement weather tried to take the day away from her again. Rain and wind delayed her skydive several hours and it seemed as if it might not even happen that day at all. Bridgett shared her story with the team at Skydive St. Louis and explained why this specific day was so significant, and why her skydive would mean so much more if it happened today over any other day. She and the team were determined to make it happen. Finally, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and Bridgett received one final sign from her father. A hawk flew low over her head, just before she got in the plane for her skydive. But this was not the first time Bridgett had been visited by a hawk in her father’s absence. On the day of her father’s funeral, a hawk perched on the steeple of the church looking over the congregation. In the days and years following, Bridgett often stumbled upon hawk feathers, like a trail of breadcrumbs. Bridgett’s father had always loved Native American culture, and each year on his birthday, Bridgett gifted him a symbol from this culture, one such gift being a hawk. Bridgett knew that her father was with her, and that he wanted her to know everything would be ok. The hawk reappeared while Bridgett was in the plane on her way up, and again after she landed and was celebrating with her family.
Bridgett, we are so taken by your courage and strength. It takes a very special person to decide to take control of their life, and an even more special person to do so by facing fear. You are a beacon of light for those who know you, and a breath of fresh air for those who meet you. Jumping with you was such an honor. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and thank you for trusting us to be part of your story. We hope your courage inspires others, as it has inspired us! And we know you continue to make your father proud.