We got off the plane a total of three times, spread over three hours. Each time this happened my feeling of trust declined and my feeling of fear increased. But it’s not as though there was another flight.
When the plane finally managed to take off, after lurching and banging down a washboard dirt runway, it was already dark. The plane headed up and directly into black thunderclouds. I knew that we had to fly over some high mountains on our flight to Teheran.
A couple of hours into the flight, we ran into what U.S. pilots often announce as a “patch” of bad weather. But it felt to me like flying into a cyclone. The plane rolled, pitched and yawed—violently and horribly.
Sudden drops in altitude: heart in mouth stuff, for sure. There were immense jagged flashes of lightening and unbelievably explosive claps of thunder.
I was utterly convinced that we would either smash into the side of a mountain (a reasonable fear) or that the plane would begin a vertical dive which would end in oblivion (also a reasonable fear).
My fear factor was aided and abetted considerably by a number of people who got out of their seats, the better to kneel and pray loudly to Allah.
Their shouted litany of God is Good, God is Great served only to firm up my conviction that I was about to die.
Jo and I held hands. I don’t think we talked. There was a ferocious din in the cabin of the old plane—the roar of sputtering engines, the random explosions of thunder, and the yelling of those preparing to meet their God.
A tin cauldron of imminent death.
At some point I stopped being afraid; after all, one can sustain fear for only so long. I felt not peaceful but fatalistic. Likely-Jo-and-I-are-about-to-die-soon-and-that’s-okay. So be it, Amen. That was surely better than having large amounts of adrenalin coursing through my veins.
Seemingly against all odds, the little C-47 descended out of the dark storm clouds and made a bumpy, clunky landing at the airport in Teheran.
I was glad to be alive. Jo and I took a taxi to a hotel, wandered out and found a restaurant, had some good food. Our knees were still wobbly but our respiration returned to normal.
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.”
For reviews and other information about The Enneagram of Death, see https://ewagele.wordpress.com/new-book-the-enneagram-of-death/
For a list of Famous Enneagram and MBTI types, see http://www.wagele.com/Famous.html
For information on all of Elizabeth’s books and her CD, click on the covers: http://www.wagele.com