We were eating dinner in Milan, Italy, part of a week-long trip in the Lake Como area with family friends visiting from California. With full bellies and a newly corked bottle of wine we started to talk about the 100 things we wanted to do before we died, better known as a Bucket List.
The daughter of the couple visiting, Katie, had just turned 25, and one of her biggest fears was bungee jumping—a fear she wanted to face in her lifetime. Sean and I also had this on our Bucket List and knew that one of the highest manmade jumps in the world, the Golden Eye, made famous by the 007 film of the same name, was only 45 minutes away. We accepted this as fate.
Sensing our excitement, the kids came rushing over to the table.
“What are you going to do Mommy and Daddy?” Braeden, age seven, asked.
“Jump off a bridge, B!” my husband said.
With that casual smile and wide-eye look I love so much, Braeden said, “cool.” Five-year-old Raegan asked “us too?”
“Not this time sweetie,” I said.
That night we found the website easily. It allowed us to sign up online, guaranteeing our spot and a set time so we wouldn’t have to wait. I liked that such a system created a sense of commitment, of no going back. We bought the tickets. We planned our jumps for 11:00 a.m. the next day, and the weather—a deciding factor for bungee jumping— looked perfect.
In the morning, as we made our way towards the dam, the knots in my stomach churned. I can remember the moment when the dam first came into view. The traffic had started to slow. As we made our way around the final turn on the two-lane road, there she was. Standing in all her glory, over 700 feet tall, was the Verzasca Dam, home of the “Golden Eye” bungee.
Perched in the middle of the bridge was the bungee jump stand. From afar we saw small dots of people gathered to watch. As I looked more closely, I saw a jumper leaping head first, arms wrapped in an X across his chest, falling in what seemed like slow motion. More fear crept in, now lodging itself in my spine.
“Wait, what, you are going to do that?” Braeden said. The first sense of guilt entered my mind.
Sean volunteered to go first. With the greatest fear of heights, he wanted to get it over with. I was relieved. Maybe watching him jump, bounce, hang and be pulled back up would give me confidence.
On the bridge, the kids tried to get as close to the edge as possible. Our friends, who at this point were sitting down on the bridge due to their fear of heights, agreed to hold on to them tightly. I held the video camera, ready to shoot my husband’s plunge.
Sean stood on top of the jump deck, harnessed in three places and ready to go. In true Sean style, he held his hands together in prayer, said a quick Hail Mary, and took ten deep breaths. He was convinced he was jumping to his death. Then he was gone.
“Oh my God, that was crazy!” I yelled, for a moment forgetting that my kids were right next to me.
“Where did he go?” Raegan asked, a slight sense of panic in her voice.
“Daddy’s okay baby, see him, he’s right there, floating like a bird.”
“Let me see, let me see!” she said, pushing herself closer to the bridge’s edge.
Since I held the camera, Katie kept a strong arm around her. On the video I can hear Katie’s sweet voice reassuring my daughter as Sean emerged smiling from ear to ear.
“That was so cool!” he yelled.
As I walked to get harnessed, I heard Raegan ask nervously if I would be alright. I looked back to her and and said, “Mommy has always wanted to do this, and I’m so happy you are here to see me. I love you sweetie. See you in a few minutes.”
At that moment, I did question our decision. What might this experience do the psyches of our kids? The answer came to me anchored in one of my life tenants—to live life fully, courageously and without regret. That was what I was doing, and my kids were witnesses.
I swallowed hard and continued my walk towards the platform. Soon, I was flying headfirst into the abyss.