“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher
I got the news a few days ago of the passing of a friend and fellow skydiving brother, Daniel Eric Morgan. When I first heard, it was via a biker friend of mine through a FaceBook message, and I’ll be honest: I didn’t even recognize his name, or the connection due to the convoluted path of the message.
But that wholly understates the importance Eric had on my life – and so many others’. You see, I became known in skydiving circles for shouting “TICKET TO RIDE!!!” in the jump plane as it took off on its climb to altitude so we its passengers could fling ourselves from two miles up in the sky. People in proximity would often brace for this moment; I often would grab and vehemently shake the person closest to me, or perhaps someone I wished to target on that particular jump. BUT, truth be told and in full disclosure, Eric was the originator of this phrase – and it will always belong to him.
That notion – of illuminating the charged emotions of a skydive in voice, gesture and motion, captures the very notion of life and living. Skydivers now this feeling all too well. That we experience life to the fullest by accepting that death may be just around the corner, or in our case, a mere 50 seconds away…. And it reflects the gregarious nature that Eric would extrude from his very pores at those times when he could be found at the dropzone.
I didn’t know Eric well. Actually, I didn’t know him really at all. I probably knew his last name at one time, but over the years, it slipped away. He was a Navy “bubblehead” veteran of the submarine force, and worked in some IT or technical capacity based on his navy experience and training. He was a family man, although I can’t even say how many kids he has or whether he was/is currently married or not. He wasn’t what I would consider a “regular” at Emerald Coast Skydiving Center (ECSC, our home dropzone, now sadly defunct), but when he was around, his charismatic presence was unmistakable. In a sense, he was a caricature of himself, a zany personality full of smiles and laughter. Because of this, I came to refer to him as “Crazy Eric.”
I have almost 10,000 photos on my Flickr photostream tagged “skydiving.” But I can only find a single photo of Crazy Eric. That makes me sad, but his loss causes an emptiness that I can only really fill by capturing and sharing our intersection, our story. In this one photo, however, one can gleam all that needs to be known about Eric: his welcoming smile, kind eyes, and a rig on his back ready to jump. And clearly, just beneath his calm exterior, that clever grin, ready to exclaim in only the way in which he could, “TICKET TO RIDE!”
Eric’s life indeed can be warmly found in the happy memories of the skydiving family he left behind.
Blue Skies, Black Death My Friend.