Graham & Frank’s tandem skydive in memory of Matthew Beadle

Both Frank & I had known our good friend Matt Beadle since our primary school days and had all stayed good friends throughout our lives together. We sadly lost our friend Matt in 2012 to an undiagnosed heart condition when he was just 32 years young.

Matt was a funny, energetic, witty lad. A professional dancer who excelled in just about anything he did with a great attitude and zest for life. His massive smile and positivity would light up a room and he would befriend just about anybody he came across. All of this is why his sudden and unexplained death was so shocking and traumatic to so many people.

While Frank and I helped to carry his coffin into the crematorium, I remembered something I had been told years before…

‘You can tell how successful a person has been in life, not by how much money or material possessions they have… But by how many people attend their funeral’.

This was all evident on the day of his funeral, which was attended by over 800 people at the church and memorial service.

Since we lost Matt, countless members of his friends and family have raised money for CRY in his memory. When the suggestion of doing a skydive came up, Frank and I didn’t hesitate to get it booked and start raising funds for this amazing charity ourselves.

In the months leading up to our skydive, Frank and I had a few conversations along the lines of ‘what the hell are we doing’, but we never once considered not going through with it as we both wanted to do it for two very good reasons… CRY and Matt.

On the day of the skydive, we arrived early at a very sunny Headcorn Airfield in Maidstone. There were a few nerves between us, but mainly excitement and an enthusiasm to get the job done.

Supported by a 15 strong crowd of our friends and family, at around 11am we had suited up and were taking in some last minute tips from our instructors. As we walked towards the plane, I was told I would be the first one out! Undeterred by this information I climbed in with everyone else and waited for them to start the take off procedure. There must have been about 12 of us in the plane in total… Instructors, camera men, sky divers, oh and the pilot obviously!!

As we started to take off they pulled the see through shutter door down on the side of the plane which I was sat right next to. I watched us take off and start to climb in altitude, there was a gauge at the back of the plane which read all the way round to 12,000 feet. I was told by my instructor that when we get to 11,000 feet we would start to prepare for the jump. Frank and I were sat at opposite sides of the plane and it was really noisy. Apart from sharing a few cheeky (and slightly nervous) grins we didn’t really communicate until we met on the ground afterwards.

Before we had got in the plane, we had a made up a hand signal that we agreed we’d both use on the way down. It was simply an ‘M’ shape for Matt.

In no time at all, it was go time. The shutter door was opened and I looked at the ground beneath me… 2 and a half miles down… Crikey!!!

A lone diver went out first and I watched him disappear from view, then it was my turn. My instructor (called H) and I shuffled towards the edge of the plane, I tucked my lower legs under the plane and pulled my head back onto his shoulder as instructed. My camera man (Lee) was perched on the edge as well, ready to jump and half hanging out of the plane the adrenaline was pumping. Then we rolled forward and we were falling through the clear blue sky with the wind rushing through us.

The initial feeling of falling was very scary, but within about 5 seconds we had hit terminal velocity (120 miles on hour). At this point it felt like I was floating and the whole experience went to another level of awesomeness. Taking in the amazing view while falling through the sky and shouting “Woo hoo” didn’t stop me from remembering what and who I was there for. In view of the cameraman, I pulled the ‘M’ symbol with my hands and spared a thought for my friend.

Not long after this, my instructor pulled the cord and I felt the brakes come on as the parachute opened successfully. The initial rush was over, but we were still hanging in the sky and floating back down to earth. ‘H’ let me take control of the parachute and we did some tight turns and tricks. The view was still awesome and the whole experience was still so surreal. I started wondering how my mate Frank was getting on and then ‘H’ pointed him out over in the distance just before we prepared to land… He was good!

We touched down perfectly and Lee was already on the ground ready to film our touch down. I stood up feeling a mixture of elation, excitement and relief. Lee gave me a short interview about the jump and who it was for. I was still proudly wearing my CRY T-Shirt for all to see as was my friend Frank. I went over to find Frank who had landed about 50 feet away and gave him a massive hug. We sat in the field waiting to be collected by the mini bus to take us back to the airfield and started to exchange our experiences with each other.

We both agreed on three things… It was amazing, we would definitely do it all again (especially for charity), and we were both really glad we had done it in memory of Matt Beadle. We then went back to see our friends and family who were waiting for us and went to a local pub for a well deserved pint and some grub.

I have to say a massive thank you to everyone at CRY (especially Rosie Peploe) for helping and advising us on fundraising and the event. I big thanks to all the skydive team for giving us the most amazing experience and for always being professional, safe and fun.

Last but not least a huge thank you goes out to our friends and family for supporting us. And of course, all of the friends, family, colleagues and strangers who donated to our cause. Special mention to Pure Jeanius Hair Salon in Swanley and Eden Barbers in Strood for fund raising for us.

Frank and I will always miss our good friend Matt and he will never be forgotten. I found out recently that his condition would have been treatable had he known about it… This is why CRY is such an important charity and must continue to do such amazing work to hopefully prevent the world from losing such wonderful young people.

Thanks for reading our story…

Graham Christian