It is 2:41 AM Nigerian time and 8:41 AM Central Time now. Most people in Nigeria are sleeping, and many people in Illinois, like Father Alford, are already sleeping. Here on the plane, the lights are out, and I can tell that most people on board this flight are sleeping. I hope the pilot is not! And feeling calmer and mentally more productive at night, I am awake doing some readings and reflecting on my two-week vacation in Nigeria, which just ended.
I witnessed the wedding of one of my closest high school friends and baptized the first child of another high school friend. I spent time with my mom, siblings, nieces and nephews, and some friends who visited. I hung out with some old-time friends and had a good time in the rectory of a great priest-friend. I had the honor of giving a recollection to a group of teenagers. I was also blessed to be served some of my favorite meals almost daily. My mind is passionately ruminating on these things as a thought flashed through my mind….what if the unthinkable happens now?
What unthinkable am I even talking about? Sitting beside the window and looking out into the space, I notice that our flight is about thirty-four thousand feet above sea level on top of the Atlantic Ocean. What if an accident happens now and this flight begins to descend unto the Atlantic Ocean hopelessly and explosively? That would be the “unthinkable.” And the fact that my earthly existence and that of the rest of the people on board, including the pilot, would come to a quick end is hard to think about.
So, what if the unthinkable happens now? Where will I go? Will I be happily welcomed by a host of angels and saints into the communion of the elect? Or will I proceed to purgatory, where I still hope to join the communion of saints after some period of purifying torments? Or will I see myself in a place of endless torments and tortures, with unimaginable pains day and night with no hope of redemption?
While it may be weird to imagine such ugly situations, we know that they do happen. Planes have disappeared from space in the past, and all passengers died and were buried in the bottomless oceans somewhere in the world. Road accidents where people die miserably on the spot are not uncommon. Disasters have happened, and people lose their lives abruptly. People do suffer sudden heart attacks and die immediately. Innocent people have lost their lives to terrorist attacks, gunshots, and natural calamities. We see, read, or hear about these unthinkable things very often. So, we might as well see the need to think about these things and ask the ultimate questions.
Maybe, when we think about these things, the desire to be in a better place when the unthinkable happens will grow. And to be realistic, dying a natural death or being a victim of any of the “unthinkable” does not change one’s destination hereafter. What changes one’s destination in the next life is the conscious decisions we make to choose God and godly lifestyles and the relentless efforts we make in staying true to those choices even in the most complex and challenging situations.