A matter of life and death

What is it that makes us so afraid of dying? Is it just the vanilla fear of the unknown, or is it the love for life? Or is it the sense of not having enough accomplishments to your name that makes us want to live some more and thus avoid death?

Most senior citizens I know do not fear death – in fact, it sometimes seems that they are patiently waiting for it, biding their time, going about their daily schedules. Perhaps they have already fulfilled most of their desires, their responsibilities – they had a good job, got married, raised broods, got them married, so in a sense their social and worldly obligations have been taken care of. So maybe, and I could be wrong, for them the next logical step is to step into the unknown yonder, from where there’s rarely ever a u-turn.

So are people who haven’t quite advanced in age, the younger lot so to speak, who are still in the midst of chasing their personal and professional dreams, more afraid of dying? Can’t say.

Or is it the pain associated with dying that makes us squeamish? Most deaths are long drawn elaborate affairs, due to disease and old age. The ones that occur instantaneously, due to accidents, or un-natural causes, are relatively fewer.

I had read somewhere, in the aftermath of the mid-air collision in 1996 over the Haryana village of Charkhi-Dadri, that death, at those terrifying speeds of 900kmph, takes less than half a second, with the result that people’s bodies are frozen on impact in the midst of whatever action they were doing. So if you were flipping the page of the inflight magazine, chances are your mortal remains would have you in that exact same position.

The incident was gruesome – the only saving grace perhaps being that since death was near-instantaneous, most people died before hitting the ground. I say most because some did survive the 15,000 feet fall – I don’t even want to imagine the physical pain and trauma those few ‘unlucky’ ones endured for some moments or minutes perhaps before the grim reaper eased them out of their misery.

I wonder what went through the minds of the pilots of the aircraft when they realised that their end was near. Evidence suggests that the pilots of the Saudi Airlines recited their final prayers, in accordance with their faith. But what about the 300-plus passengers – did they get time to realise what had happened when the IL-76 signed their death warrant?

And what about the pilots and the crew of the IL-76, who were the ones who lay writhing in pain on the ground? What went through their mind in those final moments?

I have often wondered how and where my end would come? Alone, unknown to anybody? In some freak mishap? Or would I be lucky enough like most of our forefathers, who went serenely, surrounded by their loved ones?

I shall wait and see, though I’m quite doubtful if I would be able to tell, or even live to tell the tale!

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