Note before: This is an old “Diary Entry” from the Modem-Help site, re-jigged into the etmg format. The original site is now long gone.
...it is hardly surprising that some of my recent cogitations have been upon death.
Final Destination was on the TV recently - first time I’ve seen it (a film with a ‘sparkle’ to it which speaks of an excellence that raises it above the normal; I laughed out loud when the blond girl was hit by the bus). I know of at least 3 occasions in my own life where the Reaper threw one of His knives at me and missed.
The most recent was on 16:30 Tuesday, 23 Feb 1999 when I fell down dead at work (curiously, this is what happened to the girl in Tuesday’s episode of Buffy - if Buffy had only been trained in resusitation the whole moral background to that episode would have been thwarted).
Prior to that was an occasion at about this time of year, sometime in the mid-1980’s. I was driver for a party of 5 (including me) from my home town of Hull to an event in a hall in the centre of a small town in the hills of Derbyshire. The weather was mild & wet when we arrived in the early evening but--ignorant of this until we left the hall--the temperature dropped sharply below freezing and it also snowed. Our transport was a hire car - a new, Japanese model with an aluminium engine, but manual choke. I was a well-seasoned driver at this stage in my life, although all the models that I had driven had had cast-iron engines (normal for the time), slow to heat to running temperature. The road home was level out from the hall, but a mile from the town centre immediately went down a steep hill, already out in the country. Snow on black-ice was something that I’d had previous experience of, but the car was running away with us. I spotted the engine temp & removed the choke, but it was too late to prevent a higher speed than was moderate. Fate now intervened, with a drunk on the road ahead of us (it was throwing-out time at the pubs) weaving wildly about the 2-lane road, and other traffic ascending the hill. It looked like the 3 of us were due to meet, but I managed to pass the drunk and avoid the innocent party in the other lane. The manoeuvre lost us traction on the road as we returned to our lane, however, and the car left the road for the grass, spinning in circles.
The car was sideways as it fell over the drop. The drivers-side was facing this drop, and my mind retains the vivid memory of seeing the inky blackness and shouting to every one to brace themselves. The car rolled down the hill, losing it’s windscreen in the process and, wierdly, came to a stop lying on the passenger-side doors. One more roll would have taken us into the river that ran through the valley. We were more than 500 foot below the nearest point of the road, yet I was the only one of the five of us with an injury - a shard of the toughened-glass had nicked my cheek when the windscreen blew out.
The first time that I would credit to this series of 3 was aged 9, though I cannot recall the time of year. With hindsight, my appendix had been grumbling on & on for months, but the symptoms had been put down to everything else but. Unfortunately for Heinz spaghetti I had had some before it finally ruptured; it was years & years before I could face eating spaghetti again. Peritonitus set in at hospital and - remembering that this was 1958 - my mother was prepared for my possible death. To twist the screw a little further, my Dad’s mum died at just this time (“she’s going to take him with her” screamed my mother) but, after many weeks, it turned out not to be the case.
It seems to me that the knowledge of the certainty of our death--someday, sometime--is the greatest gift that we can have. Without it, we are just cows in the field, contentedly munching grass for the next million years, but no future. Or maybe I’m the only one who needs a good kick to get up off my arse and do something?
I also cherish the memory of Erroyl Flynn from the movies in my youth: a merry chuckle in the face of death and certain disaster. Anyway, what’s the alternative? The Talmud (I believe it is) says that God sets before us Life on the one hand and Death on the other, and asks us to choose. I still choose Life, but acknowledge death as part of the bargain.
--------- Alex Kemp