I Want to Do It Alone

You may recall that in 1999 John Kennedy, Jr. was killed in a private plane crash.  As in most crashes, a cascade of unfortunate circumstances and bad decisions preceded the accident.  As aviators say, if any link in this chain of events is broken, the crash probably doesn’t happen. 

For example, JFK, Jr. broke his ankle a few weeks before the accident.  He was flying in a support boot; thus, his ability to press the rudder pedal was suspect.  Also, his arrival at the airport was delayed two hours due to a traffic jam, so he didn’t take off until late afternoon.  He was not yet instrument rated, and he apparently became disoriented in the haze of inclement weather and evening darkness.

But one other item came to light during the investigation of the crash.  His instructor was concerned about his piloting skill and volunteered to accompany John, his wife and her sister on the flight.  These were JFK, Jr.’s exact words in declining offer:  “I want to do it alone.”

When I heard that, I immediately thought of it in a spiritual context.  How often we choose to face life’s problems alone when, truth is, we are in over our heads.  We all struggle with an honest appraisal of our circumstances and abilities.  We need support, a clearer perspective, a source of experience, but we’re afraid to admit our vulnerability.  So we fly on into the darkness alone, hoping against hope that we do not crash. 

JFK, Jr. passed 57 airports where he could have landed safely if he had merely said,  “I can’t handle this; let’s drive instead.”  But he was a Kennedy; it was not in the family DNA to admit weakness.  The Kennedys, it seems, are not the only ones with pride problems.