When Billy Hawes' wife died, the 93-year-old planned to live out the rest of his days quietly.
Confined to a wheelchair, the war veteran from Tiptree, Essex, had been housebound for four years.
But after a message from his wife in a dream, the widower found a remarkable new lease of life.
After building up the strength to walk again, Mr Hawes flew to South Africa to visit family and celebrated his transformation with an 11,000ft parachute jump.
Mr Hawes explained: 'I lost my dear wife Hilda in April after 60 years of marriage and of course I had never been on my own before. I was just sat in my chair all day and wanted to give up.
'I never even made a cup of tea when she was alive. I was lost.
'But then I had a message from my wife, telling me: "What you going to do Bill, sit there and rot away? Do something with your life, you can walk if you want to."
'With that I got my walking frame and started walking on the spot. I was determined to build up my strength and after a month I could walk to the bathroom and back.'
As Mr Hawes started to feel more active, he received a phone call from his nephew, Colin Robinson, in Johannesburg that convinced him to make the trip of a lifetime.
He said: 'My nephew called and said winter is coming, you should getaway and come and visit. As he does skydiving he kept on at me about me going over to do a skydive.
'At first, I told him that he had to be joking, but he told me I could do it. I agreed and booked the flight.'
On Sunday, Mr Hawes, a retired painter and decorator, climbed into a plane and became the oldest person to do a tandem skydive in South Africa.
Mr Hawes, who served as a soldier in the Queen's Royal Regiment, said he felt like he was in heaven as he flew through the clouds.
He said: 'It is a day I shall never forget, every time I shall look up in the sky it will tell me I've been there.
'I cannot believe what has happened to me after I spent four years in a wheelchair. To me, this is the biggest miracle of all.
'It was a great sensation. We jumped out and did a somersault. It was beautiful, it was like being in heaven.
'As I was coming out of the clouds I knew my wife was with me and that I was safe.
'At 93 I feel so proud and I feel so alive again. I loved every bit about it, I enjoyed every minute.'
Mr Hawes, who is already planning to return to South Africa to make another skydive next year, said he hopes that he inspires others.
He said: 'I am very pleased that I have been able to do this. There are plenty of elderly people in home or own that have given up, like I had.
'I know that if I can do this, then there are hundreds of others that can do something. I'll be back to jump again next year.'
Mr Robinson added: 'When his mind was made up, I knew he would do it.
'I have never seen anyone so one look so happy as Billy did that morning. As he said, it doesn't matter how old you are you must just keep going, he is an inspiration to everyone.'