As friends and family arrived at my place for lunch, I was full of joy.
‘Happy Birthday!’ my lovely grandkids cheered..
It was February this year, and I was dressed up in a floral dress and sipping bubbles as we all toasted my 90th birthday.
Two of my granddaughters, Caitlin, 31, and Alice, 29, had baked me a triple-layered chocolate cake, and everyone clapped as I blew out the candles.
After tucking into the delicious dessert, my good friend Didi, 51, passed me an envelope.
Immediately, I knew what it was.
‘Oh dear,’ I said.
Three years earlier, Didi had made a pact with me.
‘Let’s go skydiving once you turn 90,’ she’d said.
After my beautiful husband Tony died, aged 78, from pancreatic cancer in 2006, I thought it was important to make the most of every single moment.
Never one to turn down a dare, I’d shaken Didi’s hand on the idea.
I’m not going to reach 90, I’d thought with a chuckle.
But here I was, and cheeky Didi hadn’t forgotten our promise.
I’d met Didi – originally from the Czech Republic – five years earlier when she’d moved from Australia to New Zealand with her husband Shaun and boys Ben and Nico.
She’d signed up to a pottery class I’ve been a member of for over five decades, and we became fast friends.
Didi always seemed to be up for an adventure.
I’ve always enjoyed having younger friends, and whenever I was with Didi, I felt 21 again!
When I’d told my family about Didi’s idea, my daughter Nicki, 61, was terrified.
‘You could have a heart attack!’ she said.
But my granddaughter Alice wasn’t worried – in fact she wanted to join in on the fun.
We booked our dive for late April, as we thought autumn would be lovely weather for it.
And as Didi’s son Nico’s 12th birthday was coming up the following month, he wanted to skydive too.
Brave boy! I thought.
The day of the dive was bright and sunny and I was super excited.
Fifteen of our family and friends – including some from the pottery class – stood at a fenced-off area outside the airport to watch us.
We had a safety briefing before we were then harnessed up.
At my age, it was essential that I was able to lift my legs high to keep them out of harm’s way when we landed.
Lucky I’ve been doing Zumba since I was 85! I thought, when I was given the green light.
We were all doing tandem jumps, so once in the tiny plane, I was strapped onto my instructor, the lovely Adam.
Reaching 12,000 feet, as the plane’s door was opened, the wind roared.
‘You ready?’ Adam asked as our legs dangled over the edge.
Before I knew it, he’d launched us out of the plane, and we were freefalling at around 200 kilometres per hour.
With the wind howling in my ears and eyes, I couldn’t see or hear a thing!
But once Adam opened the parachute, I took a breath and admired the beautiful view. Lake Taupo shimmered beneath me, and the three volcanoes – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu – were just beyond.
This is magnificent, I thought.
Landing smoothly on a grassy patch close to the runway, I could see our loved ones cheering us on.
I felt exhilarated.
‘Thank goodness for that! Now I just need to worry about Alice!’ a relieved Nicki said, as she waited for her girl to land too.
High-fiving Adam, it was so lovely seeing Nico, Didi and Alice make their landing safely behind me.
Heading back home, we celebrated with some champagne.
‘Cheers!’ I said.
It was a crazy experience that I’ll treasure forever.
And since then, Didi has come up with an idea for my 100th birthday.
‘We’ll travel to Prague!’ she said.
Who knows what she’ll have in store for me when we’re back in her home country!
Whatever it is, I’m all in.
You’re never too old to try new things!