South Surrey senior Barbara Renflesh is no stranger to the view from above – after all, the retired teacher-librarian has visited every continent over the course of her 90 years.
But the view was substantially fresher last weekend, when she took a leap of faith – quite literally – while flying high above the Fraser Valley.
Aug. 30, Renflesh did a tandem skydive with Fraser Valley-based Skydive Vancouver, accompanied by her daughter and two grandsons.
“I’d been thinking I should do something this year to mark my 90th year,” Renflesh recalled Friday (Sept. 4) of what led her to don the required gear and make the breath-catching jump from 10,000 feet up.
“I have such a big family and I thought they’d get a big kick out of it.”
The idea had been in the back of Renflesh’s mind for the past year or two, her daughter Vail Thomas noted. As Renflesh’s birthday is Feb. 1, the thought was to wait until the weather was milder, so they held off.
The pandemic put a damper on those plans, followed by the death of her husband of 40 years, Al – well-known to many in the community as the symbol of Christmas in Semiahmoo Shopping Centre – in April.
“He was supportive in anything I wanted to do, although he really had trepidations about the skydiving,” Renflesh said. “But he wasn’t here to see it, unfortunately. I missed him – he would’ve been so proud.”
Ultimately, Renflesh was determined to cross the adventure off of her to-do list.
Encouraged by one grandson who has skydived hundreds of times, and joined in the jump by another grandson as well as her daughter, Renflesh took the flight, got strapped to an instructor and made the leap.
Her moment of hesitation was brief.
“I was having a really hard time letting go and jumping out,” she said. “But I didn’t have a choice.”
After free-falling for what felt like longer than the few seconds it was, the chute opened and Renflesh had no regrets.
“It was such a beautiful day and such a beautiful view from up there… spectacular,” she said.
According to information at skydivevancouver.ca, tandem jumps include a 15-minute flight, free-falling at 200-plus kilometres per hour and – as described at skydivevancouver.ca – a “surreal canopy descent.”
While Thomas and other family members had some concerns around their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother participating, particularly with regard to how the landing would go, everything went off without a hitch, she said.
And when Renflesh landed, “she was just grinning huge,” Thomas added.
She was “absolutely thrilled.”
Renflesh said the jump is the most recent adventure she has enjoyed over the years. Many others came from travels to places including Antarctica – where she and Al spent her 80th birthday – and the Andes.
She also travelled to Iceland in 2005 to participate in a 10-km fundraising walk in support of diabetes research and programming.
And she doesn’t expect her Aug. 30 leap to be her last adventure.
She’d still like to travel, she said.
And, a future skydive isn’t off the table.
“I wouldn’t have any trouble doing it again.”