Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sole survivor

One question leaped to mind as TV journalists reported that 49 people died in the Kentucky plane crash this morning and only one survived: How would it feel to be that sole survivor? I'm sure there'd be a certain amount of survivor's guilt, but I'd think there would also be an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

I can imagine that if I were that person, I'd spend the rest of my life trying to understand why I was spared. What great thing is it that I'm supposed to do? How can I relax and watch Big Brother when there must be some special reason for my existence? Could you give me just a hint, God, so I'll know where to begin?

In my life as it exists today, I relish the freedom to spend an entire Sunday afternoon reading a good book. What some might see as a waste of time, I see as healthy R&R and personal enrichment. But if I were the sole survivor of a plane crash, would I be able to enjoy a day of relaxation, or would I feel that I'd be cheating the "higher power" that saved me by not spending every waking moment in active pursuit of the betterment of society?

No answers here, kiddos, just questions. What do you think?


  1. Velvet...I am not the lone survivor and I still am haunted by that question...what am I supposed to do, why am I here, do I have a purpose? I pray the Lord will guide me to it and I can carry out the plan without resistance.

    This question started to "hag" me when I was 12 years old. I do not think I have achieved anything toward whatever it is I am supposed to do. I keep wondering if I will be able to see but looking into a mirror darkly I can not.

  2. A hard one, for sure.

    I was raised to not question certain things that happen to us, or others. However, our very souls, I'm sure, have us do just that.

    Having experienced a near-death situation as a mere child of 6, a situation SO near death it still makes me shudder, I choose to believe that I was spared to do whatever it is I choose! I do my very best to live a life that I think is right for me. Not saying, mind you, that I have not done things that I'm not proud of, but saying that I've done things in my life that have made me ME!

    Maybe that's what it's all about? Just having the opportunity to know what is right and what wrong and being able to distinguish the difference and face the consequenses? Maybe just learning the difference and making the necessary adjustments to "do better"?

    Who knows.

    But I, for one, am terribly glad I have the opportunity to sit in my comfortable home and think about it!

    In the meantime, I'll rejoice in the survivor's survival. That's what my heart's telling me to do!


  3. I think the survivor will have a very tough time with the guilt, seeing as how he was the co-pilot. Should he have known? Could he have done something different? I think for this poor man to even stay close to sane, he will HAVE to believe that he was spared for a reason - then concentrate on discovering and fulfilling that reason, rather than dwelling on the deaths.

    As Sweet Sister, I am also always looking for my path, looking to see where my gifts can best be used. Of course, this does not preclude spending a weekend reading! After all, who knows what may inspire and "nudge" us in the direction we ought to go in?

    Priss, I also like what you said about "making the necessary adjustments to do better." We all sometimes take steps backwards - but overall, as long as we keep going forward, that has to be a good thing. Maybe we are meant to discover who we are, before we find out what we are meant to do? Or maybe the doing helps us discover who we are?

    I don't think we have to constantly be worried about pursuing our "responsibility in life." I do think we need to be open and attentive to opportunities to make socially responsible choices. A dear priest once told me that God is always talking to us - but we rarely hear, through the "static" of everyday life. He said with the help of prayer, compassion and good deeds some of that "static' starts to subside and we are better able to discern what we need to do with our lives. When I'm able to "stick with the program," I have found my priest's words to hold true for me.

    Very thoughtful question, Velvet.

  4. SS3, I think most of us give some thought to why we are here. (Personally, I think of life like a school, where there are specific things we're supposed to learn and pop quizzes and mid-term exams along the way to see if we're "getting it.") But even though we may be curious about the purpose of our lives, I don't think most of us feel a lot of pressure to discover it.

    Priss, you wrote about "having the opportunity to know what is right and what is wrong and being able to distinguish the difference and face the consequences" and "learning the difference and making the necessary adjustments to 'do better.'" Learning to distinguish the difference is the kind of "school" I'm talking about.

    I guess I'm not talking so much about finding the purpose of life as the PRESSURE of finding that purpose.

    In a tragedy like 9/11, the tsunami, or Hurricane Katrina, where many people died and many others lived, one could make the case that random circumstances determined who lived and who died.
    Random circumstances might be the cause of only one person out of 50 surviving an airplane crash, too. I just think THAT situation--more than the others--would cause a person to feel as if he had been CHOSEN to live and therefore must have a SPECIAl purpose or responsibility. That's where I think the extra pressure would come in.

    Guess I'm just speculating about how I think I'd feel. I wonder if an actual "sole" survivor has ever written about this subject.

  5. Sunflower, I missed your comment while I was composing my own. Hadn't heard that the survivor was the co-pilot. He'll no doubt feel that he was given a miracle in one hand and a heavy load to bear in the other. One day at a time, right?

  6. Oh, Ms. Velvet. I guess I truly knew what you were saying!

    What a funny thing it is, the mind. I guess that's my way of completely not wanting to think about what I, the "survivor" would feel like, or think.

    Honestly, I believe that there would be such overwhelming feelings of guilt, grief, confusion, sadness, glee, and any other emotion one might feel, all rolled up into one. I don't know if I could handle something like that.......alone.

    I only hope that the lone survivor has a wealth of healing around him.

    Such tragedy.

  7. Ok, let me try this again. I think believing that one is "chosen" to live, should NOT cause more pressure to find out one's purpose. After all, how can anyone know what their purpose might be? Maybe it is to be the great-great-great-grandparent of someone who discovers a cure for cancer.

    We can only go out in the world and "do good," as we see it to be. Ultimately, none of us can know how the single tile of a life fits into and affects the mosaic of human history.

    May those 49 souls rest in peace; may the survivor find a way to peace in his life and heart.

  8. I was thinking very much the same thing as sunflower, the survivor must be struggling between awe and a heavy burden of guilt. To be a sole survivor is one thing but to be co-pilot and survive when all those under your care died must torment him with unanswerable questions, I hope that he can think he was spared for higher things, then maybe it will help him. He has been given a second chance, sometimes that can spur us on to do better things, right a few wrongs.
    Maybe the trauma will be just too much. Who knows.
    Yes, a hard one, Velvet.


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