I hope we don’t, but if we do at least I know where my life-jacket is. I have never been in a seaplane and I have never survived a crash landing. Not that I got killed or anything; it just never happened to me. I wonder what it would be like, being told that your plane was going to crash. This is an odd time and place to be wondering and writing about this : we have just taken off from Biarritz for Paris. One hour ten. Done it dozens of times. No worries. But what if . . . ?
Like you, I’ve seen those scary movies about a maniac or terrorist aboard, or an engine catching fire or a wing falling off. Would I go beserk ? Become a hero ? Or preach a final sermon (the shortest of my life) and absolve the pilot, the passengers and the crew of their sins ? (Ex-priests are empowered to do this, but the effect is the same as in the confessional : at best, reassurance of the credulous.)
On the “Titanic” they knew their time was up. “Nearer my God to Thee”, they sang. Some survived. 1500 didn’t. What was it like ? The chaos, the terror, the screams of despair, parents lying to their children, some praying, some cursing, some men putting on women’s clothes so as to be given a place in the too few life-boats, people jumping overboard, brave gentlemen helping the womenfolk into the boats, some of the crew (but not the Captain) out of control like the majority of the passengers, other crew members doing their best to instill courage in the terror-stricken. A prelude to Hell survivors would never forget, a tragedy movie-goers would relive in the comfort and security of their cinema seats.
A more common way of being alerted to the imminence of death is terminal illness or being fatally wounded in an accident or in war. Many people die instantly. But for those who have to wait for the death they know will happen in the near future, the ordeal of dying can be torture – even if the physical pain is managed by drugs. Prayer is the refuge of the believer, euthanasia the solution for the atheist.
If my death is not a sudden one, I hope to find the courage to reassure my loved ones, and to thank them for making my life so happy. I will ask them to celebrate my life and not mourn my death. I hope that although my life has not been exemplary, my death will be.