Guest Blog – A Toast to Royal Afghani Airlines, Part I

5-NearDeath copy

By Tom Clark.

Shades of George Saunders harrowing flight


When Jo and I spent nearly a near in India (1967-68), courtesy of the Berkeley Professional Studies Program in India, which was funded with vaguely Fulbright money, one of the best benefits was two Round-the-World Plane tickets on then-thriving Pan Am.

The ticket generously included many jaunts to out-of-the-way places, on small planes in sometimes heart-stopping circumstances. Royal Nepalese Airlines, for example, had no radar on their planes, and so the pilots flew blind through a massive cloud cover to land in Katmandu. We did not learn about their safety record until after we got home. We had been lucky that day, flying through fog-shrouded mountains, and finding the tiny airport.


On leaving India we flew on a reasonably safe Air India plane to Kabul, and after three days in that very strange place, we left Kabul on a Royal Afghani Airlines flight to Teheran.


The flagship of Royal Afghani Airlines was a World War II C-47, which was the airplane equivalent of a Jeep. The C-47 is a smallish, two engine prop plane, without anything that could be called a frill. Ground crews had to hand crank the propellers to get them whirling. There were prominent oil stains on the engine housings, and oils stains, as well, that had been blown back along the fuselage.


It was not an inviting sight, this clunker of a plane, but Jo and I were young and most definitely foolish.


Our Royal Afghani flight flew south of Kabul for about 45 minutes and landed on a strip in the desert, ostensibly to pick up several more passengers.

There was no town, let alone a village—just a shack in the middle of nowhere. And I do mean nowhere. We were encouraged to get off the plane and stretch for a bit, which we did.


We re-boarded the plane and waited to take off. One or both engines were not working. We had to get off and wait for an hour while turbaned people who did NOT look like airline mechanics jabbed wrenches into the engines.

We re-boarded and again nothing seemed to work.


Read Part II of A Toast to Royal Afghani Airlines on June 11.

I included Tom Clark’s story, A Near-Death Experience, in my book, The Enneagram of Death—Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying. When he was 20 years old, he was the passenger in a car that rolled over three or four times in the New Mexico desert following a blown-out tire at 75 miles an hour. He tells us how this affected his philosophy of life. “The experience I had, ultimately, is not even about death. It is only about the door that opened for me into that spacious presence that surrounds us, always. That’s all.” Recently, Tom sent me this account of the airplane incident.


See reviews and other information about The Enneagram of Death.  


See a list of Famous Enneagram and MBTI types.

Reviews and information on all of Elizabeth’s books and her CD, click on the covers:

Death 9 Ways for Memorial Day

NineKindsReapersIn honor of Memorial Day later this month, here is a drawing of reapers of 9 personalities from my book, The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights on Grief, Fear, and Dying by the 9 Types of People. This book is for people who are mourning, afraid of their own death or the death of a loved one, or interested in ’s accounts of interesting and meaningful experiences with death and dying.

If the words are hard to read, here is what the reapers say:

1-Perfectionist – “I’m sorry. No exceptions.”

2-Helper – “Come, my darling. I NEED you!”

3-Achiever – “Perhaps you’d like to make me an offer?”

4-Romantic – “I promise you eternal tragedy and beauty.”

5-Observer – “Aren’t you curious about what’s beyond?”

6-Questioner – “Wanna argue about it? Go ahead.”

7-Adventurer – “It’s the ultimate adventure!”

8-Asserter – “I take no prisoners.”

9-Peace keeper – “Take my hand, Sweetie.”

         The following excerpts from The Career Within You by E. Wagele and Ingrid Stabb expresses some attitudes toward death from some 4-Romantics’ perspectives:

• Betty was able to drink in the aesthetic expressions of her Romantic friend and intuit his feelings when he faced death from AIDS. He wanted to live as he was dying, and he wanted her to meet him on an emotional level. When he was near death he needed nursing, hugging, and honesty—and she could do that, too. She could talk with him about death, which most of his other friends were unable to do.

• When Kate worked in a cemetery, she helped people understand the choices they were making. Should they put Grandpa in the ground? Would it be okay to put him in a triple grave or a double grave? She would interpret the symbolism of their choices, explain the difference between having a memorial or a bronze plaque, and help them understand what they’d be giving and receiving.

Since Tiffany is drawn to drama, life and death, joy and grief, and the macabre, unusual, and offbeat. She has no problem working in crime-scene clean up or in a mortuary. Tiffany doesn’t want to keep the realities of life hidden.

• Romantics don’t plod through life or shy away from intensity. Some face danger or even death working in a country going through a revolution if it means making the world a better place. Allan faced dangers when he performed acts of compassion around the world: “I worked in countries where people were being killed and I had to think fast or I might be killed myself.”


See to buy and to read reviews.

Cartoon: the 4-Romantic reaper from The Enneagram of Death

Saturday May 25, 2013 at 7:30 Elizabeth will give a book talk on THE ENNEAGRAM OF DEATH in Mountain View CA.  650-988-9800